Voice of Thought Writing

Born with minds wide open, children’s eyes see
an extraordinary world
filled with limitless possibilities.
But eventually, they will be taught
there are no dragons or witches that fly,
the sun is not nailed or glued to the sky,
you can’t lie on your back and walk on clouds,
the distance between says that’s not allowed.
Science and physics determine these rules
and if you ignore them, it’s harder at school.
So learn to think “normal” like all the rest,
or you might not pass the standardized tests!      ~ms
In 1993, I enrolled in a college English class (it was a ‘core’ requirement). For the first few weeks, the professor discussed the proper way to write a good story. She said that, before writing, an author has to outline a plot, create backgrounds and personality traits for various characters, and figure out some sort of conflict between them that needs to be resolved. Her long list of writing rules and constraints were overwhelming me. I sighed as I watched my creativity cringe, shrivel up, and vanish.  There is no way I can write this way!

It got worse. The next time I went to class, the professor said, “Please take out a piece of blank paper. Your first test is going to be an ‘In-Class Essay.’ You will have the length of this class (50 minutes) to write a 3 to 5 page paper about your writing process. This will count as 20 percent of your grade.”

Oh No! I had not developed a writing process that even vaguely resembled what she had been teaching. Doomed! What was I going to write? I looked at the clock. Five minutes had already passed and my paper was still blank. I had no time left to waste, so I was going to have to write about how I write (and not about how she wanted me to write). I had no choice.

Now, even though it has been 20 years since then, I did keep a copy of that graded paper as proof that miracles can happen. Because of this rather strange and hastily written essay, the English professor gave me permission to forget everything she was teaching and continue writing outside of the box. Here is what I wrote:
English 115
February 18, 1993
In-Class Essay

My writing process is a strangely disorganized organization. When thoughts wander into my mind demanding attention, I listen. At the request of the voice, I write.

Because I am easily distracted, I find writing late at night more productive. No phone calls, no door bells ringing, no people  talking—only  the moonlight running its cool fingers through the trees, stimulating the darkness. It is then that I can hear, most clearly, the Voice of the One Who Lives in the Air.

I met the Voice years ago, in a dream. Although it never mentioned grammatical rules and regulations, it taught me the essence of writing (among other things). It said, “Remember you are not the creator. You cannot make what already is. Without resistance, simply and clearly, let it become for others to know.”

These words are the foundation of my writing process. Words contain only traces of the elements that they represent. They are symbols. Life itself is the true writer. With this in mind, I begin writing—carefully looking between the words, behind the words, and beyond the symbols.

I write in short spurts, because (admittedly) I have a rather short attention span. Easily tired, I often find myself wandering into my own thoughts, looking for a convenient place to rest. Sometimes, I can find nowhere to pause, nowhere to stop the process. It is then that I stumble downstairs for a glass of tea. Writing is time-consuming and intense, and some nights I have no patience for it.

I produce my first draft by think-writing. The thoughts think themselves and I write them down so I can see what they are trying to say. The unruly thoughts can go on for many pages before they decide on a central idea. I try to stay out of their way at this point, because I am at their mercy and they are usually out of control. If I try to force the thoughts and intimidate them with narrow lines and spaces, they vanish like smoke.

When the words stop flowing, the next part of the process begins. Finally, it’s my time to create. I study the words from every direction and decide which position is most appropriate for each one. They complain as I drag them from here to there—they know that I really don’t know what I am doing!

Suddenly, out of chaos, a certain order begins to appear. One word enlightens another, and sentences begin to form willingly. Energy between words builds a certain excitement in the writing, and new thoughts begin to gossip between the lines. Once again, I observe the thoughts, waiting for them to finish their conversations. They present me with new ideas, and I reposition them accordingly.

My writing process never ends. It is a searching, a searching for truth. It communicates new dimensions, new perspectives—opening doors that I never knew existed. I am not very concerned with form, because I am focused on content. Re-writing is simply a clarification process, an attempt to uncover the mysteries that dance in the air. Writing is an Un-doing, a re-evaluation of preconceived notions, the secret passageway between the seen and unseen.

Special pens and certain kinds of paper are not necessary for my writing process. I just need the time, the inclination, and the Voice.

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Children, Creative Writing, Photo Essay, Poetry, Stories, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Voice of Thought Writing

  1. kiwiskan says:

    Love this! …but you mean that dragons really don’t exist??


  2. Alison says:

    What a wonderful piece of writing. I think you were born a writer. I can string a sentence together. When I was younger I could be creative about it, and wrote a lot of poetry. I seem to have lost that. Perhaps I need to pay more attention to the Voice.


  3. vkalinkaneo says:

    Pour écrire aussi bien et pouvoir n’écouter que la voix (et la voie) de ses pensées afin de créer et d’innover… il faut obligatoirement avoir déjà un peu travaillé à l’école, s’être construit une culture minimale et avoir assimilé un savoir de base.
    Vous vous êtes affranchie des règles en suivant votre inspiration (et ce fut un bonheur pour nous, vos lecteurs) parce que vous aviez en vous les moyens de vous exprimer autrement, d’une façon plus essentielle et plus juste que par une méthode construite préétablie, réfléchie ou imposée. Vous avez écrit “à l’instinct”.
    c’est un bien pour tous que certains écrivains (certains artistes) comme vous soient capables d’inventer de nouveaux chemins, de tracer de nouvelles voies… afin que les petites fourmis du quotidien (comme les simples professeurs de langue dont je fais partie) puissent obtenir un imaginaire quotidien plus vaste grâce à vous… et des textes à étudier en classe!


    • Thank you so much!
      I think it is extremely difficult for classroom teachers to give “how to” instructions to a large group of students, without accidentally stepping on creativity. Because society places so much importance on passing tests—instead of viewing rules as a guide, many students (including myself) begin to think the rules are the destination itself.
      I am so grateful to those teachers who worked hard to teach me to read and write. And I will always remember the professor who reminded me that rules are only a road map. It is perfectly acceptable to wander out and go beyond them–once the basic ideas are grasped and understood (I learned the basic structure of stories by reading the stories of others). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Classroom teachings are always a stepping stone to get to the next level of writing. My instructor’s first assignment was for us to write a 50,000 word story. At the end of this writing drill, I realized I was writing two stories at the same time, thus I split them and now they are in my file drawer waiting to be finished…someday they will. In the meantime, the best advice I have for writers is to “just write”… The more your write, the more your learn and the better you get weaving and telling that story whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.


  5. dorannrule says:

    I think she recognized the signs of a real writer! Great essay to this day.


    • Thanks! Given a 50 minute limitation (and the threat of losing 20% of my grade), I didn’t have time to think about what I “should” write.
      Right or wrong, I had to write the truth without second guessing myself, OR turn in a blank paper!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A profound post. Writing is so personal it’s wrong to box it with rules or parameters that are anything more than guidelines. There are times my writing just isn’t happening, while other times words flow like a country brook. I’ve learned to embrace both phases for what they are. 🙂


    • It’s true.
      When thoughts fall silent, it feels like there is nothing to write but emptiness.
      Waiting…waiting…waiting….it’s like trying to catch the wind.
      Eventually thoughts will come flying in, dancing on air, and begging for attention.
      The writer who embraces both the active and passive phases will be ready when the wind of words arrives!


  7. A great teacher recognizes a great student! Fantastic essay.


    • Thanks for the compliment Eddie! Sorry for taking so long to reply…I am in Hawaii enjoying nature. Sea turtles, monk seals, swimming in the ocean…..until I hurt my foot. And so it goes….riding with tide and going with the flow.


  8. fransiweinstein says:

    You should probably have taught the class. Love it!


    • Thanks! Haven’t been writing much this past week because I am on the Hawaiian islands. I love swimming and snorkeling. Been doing that for the past 5 days; but then, must have hurt my toe somewhere along the line, because I ended up in the emergency room last night. Long story short…..big toe can’t swim now. No toenail. Drat! Now I will have to sit by the water and imagine. Thank God I have a good imagination……..sigh…


  9. robert87004 says:

    I could never write in 50 minutes. I take a few days to a few weeks just thinking about a subject. Once I have one in my grasp, it writes the story for me


  10. I have nominated you for the most influential blogger award, dear friend. Please click on the link below for more information. Please accept and oblige. http://saminaiqbal27.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/most-influential-blogger-award/


  11. Barb says:

    Mary, this is beautiful and I am so happy that I can call you my friend! You truely do deserve the most influential blogger award! Thank you for your stories and poems.
    Your friend, with love, Barb


  12. kenneturner says:

    I like this post. It really hits home.
    I’ve been working on a little piece about writing, the demons and angels of writing and right now the demons are winning.


  13. Delft says:

    Beautiful essay.
    I don’t think of it as “a voice” myself, but I do think stories have a life of their own, and we need to let them unfold. Or they will dig in their heels, and refuse to move onto the paper, or simply fade away.


    • Exactly so….
      Thoughts (inaudible voice) move into words
      And through the words….they become known.
      That is what I mean when I refer to “the Voice.”
      We are the “Voice of Thought Writing.”


  14. Anonymous says:

    I’ve read your poem many times. I like your writing. Unfortunately, I realized that in this part of the world personality is not appreciated even worse that in the part of the world where I am from originally. It is sad. To be nice person means you have to be like others – you have to behave, to think, to say like your teacher, your boss, etc. otherwise you never pass your test.


  15. ‘I am not very concerned with form, because I am focused on content. Re-writing is simply a clarification process, an attempt to uncover the mysteries that dance in the air.’

    i so loved this passage, i write from my heart and as Form Follows Function, i let the words decide the form, the shape it needs to be in order for the truth in the message to be clear……and for me editing is a pure joy, paring, peeling away unnecessary words…. thank you for this wonderful essay and for liking ‘whole’ on 20 Lines and few of my other poems, encouragement is always really appreciated.


  16. Patty B says:

    Terrific article – you are indeed a writer because you do write from your heart. I think this article has taught me a good lesson here that I probably could not have picked up if I had gone to college. It is refreshing to see many writers share the same passion. Blessings!


  17. angelasommers says:

    Loved this! And by the way, thanks for stopping by and liking my little Hawk post! 🙂


  18. I’m an avid “thinker outside the box” and learn by doing in my own disorganized way. I understand my chaos. It starts with “c” for creativity. I love this piece …it is so beautiful and every teacher should share this. Thank you.I’m enjoying my visit on your blog to much to see!! Whispering Insights


  19. What box…where?
    There is no box. 🙂
    Thanks for commenting, Whispering Insights!


  20. Pingback: 2 Awards – MOI? | Traces of the Soul

  21. Gigi wanders says:

    You speak of my experience so elegantly.
    Lovely to read. Just lovely.


  22. Marso says:

    Your essay means a lot to me. I’m so grateful you posted it.


  23. I adore this post. You really capture what it’s like to write under pressure. But I have to say I am most impressed that you still have the paper. OMG. How awesome!


    • Auugh! Horrible to be sitting with a blank paper, someone else giving you a topic, and a deadline that is less than an hour long. I don’t even think I knew what I was writing….I just wrote as fast as I could HOPING to at least keep from getting a dreaded F or a huge ZERO. Totally couldn’t believe I got an A…..so I had to keep the paper. 😉


  24. successbmine says:

    I love your essay. It is very creative, like a painting done with words. I have never been able to create an outline before writing anything. My novel just kept growing as I wrote after I first imagined the overall story. Then I did what was necessary to hone it. I have always felt that writing is no different than artwork or music or any other form of creative form. It shouldn’t have to be boxed in by what someone else determines it should look like. Of course we need to follow rules of grammar, spelling, etc. It does need to make sense. 🙂 And it needs to be written in an interesting way if we want others to read it. But following a list of rules made up by some so-called expert often puts a damper on creativity and stilts what we create. Not everyone will like what we write any more than I am going to like every artist that has painted a picture or every song ever written. But I don’t need to. And I don’t write for everyone. I write for those who will enjoy and benefit from what I write. Most of all I write for me, to express the creative nature within me in a form which satisfies me and hopefully brings pleasure to others.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Love it. The peripatetic penmanship perambulations pulsate with profound peregrination. Tada!!! On the other hand, my prolipsis vacates my alleged mind entirely when I dare to permit the Creative Power of the Universe to guide my fingers over the keyboard and I am stunned.by the brilliance I permit to happen and am in awe of what I am reading as my fingers resonate through the clicking of the keys..Do have a peek. http://www.hanshi.com/books
    Best regards


  26. Kindly remove periods in lines three and six. 🙂


    • I can’t remove the period from the end of the line ‘filled with limitless possibilities.’ That is the end of a statement that stands on its own and, without the limitations provided by the period there, my mind will wander into the rest of the poem too early. I can see where it would be acceptable to use a comma at the end of ‘the sun is not nailed or glued to the sky,’ as it really is part of the next thought also. I probably put a period there because my mind was running out of breath and needed to rest. I will read through it again, and consider removing the period from line 6.


    • Line 3 got angry and demanded no change, so the period remains.
      Line 6 didn’t care one way or the other, so it now has a comma.
      All English punctuation aside, I do love thoughts that agree to cryptically wander within the confines of lines!


  27. Steven Scott Bailey says:

    Frickin Brilliant!


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