When do you find yourself at peace with your words?

Who can say where the words come from? But come they will even to the youngest and most inexperienced writers. This much I’ve learned.

I grew up in a little cape cod house, and at the age of six, my parents moved my bedroom to the ground floor to make room for my sister. This meant that once the lights went out I pretty much had the house to myself (as long as I was quiet). I can’t tell you if it was frightening because I don’t recall, but I do remember an intense sense of restlessness that never seemed to resolve itself until I turned on my desk lamp and started writing.

When I was eleven, I made a little book of poems and proverbs. Just a few pages. Somewhere in my stacks I still have a single page from that book. I can see it quite clearly in my mind: an illustration of a demon covered in runes with little bits of philosophy strewn about in the margins. Here’s a sample from memory:

Even though a General knows how to sleep upon a bed of swords, it does not mean he knows comfort.

I realize this sounds pretty dark, but I recall taking comfort in that drawing and the words. The drawing wasn’t made from fear or pain. It was what it was and that’s all. I just sat at my desk with my little brass lamp, writing alone in the middle of the night, at peace with the words as they came in the dark.

Last night, I stayed up late. I was reading a book and had a quick 100 page sprint to the finish. As time passed, I checked the time not with a sense of dread but rather a feeling of calm familiarity…

As I’ve grown older, I’ve trained myself to spend too much time thinking about the words and where they come from. The question of origin nags me like the sound of a sleeping child who coughs in a unfamiliar way. I try to tell myself that everything is alright, but I can’t help sneaking a peek. I creep slowly down the hall, trying my best to be silent. Yet, even with a lifetime’s practice, each board seems loose under my feet. The doorknob turns, gnashing like the gears of an enormous clock.

And of course everything is fine. The child spread out on the bed, asleep without a care.

House of silent,
   restless sleeping.
Most are dreaming;
   one is reading.
Just the words and I
   alone in the dark.
Just the words and I
   alone and at peace.

6 thoughts on “When do you find yourself at peace with your words?

  1. First a disclaimer: I really tried not to be first but nobody has spoken up and I’m bursting at the seams.

    Jamie, this brought up so many memories. I think I will have to write my own segment. I was coveting your brass lamp though since my late night reading (not writing so much) was done by the light given off by an open flame gas stove in the bedroom I shared with my sister for six years. Those were hard years I have since learned did not need to be so hard.

    I love the line: “Most are dreaming; one is reading.”
    And it makes me wonder now if any of the others were dreaming but there is no way to answer the question anymore.

    I’m glad I made a point of saving the booklets my kids made even though they are still quite mortified by them. They’ll want them someday I’m quite sure. Okay I’m off to have a good cry.

  2. @Deb Nothing wrong with being first!

    I can’t say I’ve always loved sharing those early memories, but as I get older (and my kids grow up) I look back and find a few nuggets worth polishing. You may never be able to answer those questions to your liking, but perhaps it’s ok not to try. Don’t fight it, just allow it to pass through and move on to the next thing.

    Or don’t… and use it to fuel a literary bestseller. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. It’s funny–I just wrote a post about getting started and how hard it can be sometimes. But there is something about late at night . . . Even now, as an adult who, theoretically, can go to bed whenever I want (even if I have to get up at 5:30 a.m. with my baby boys), I find I get a second wind after the boys go to sleep. Okay, this may not technically be the middle of the night; it may actually be 8 p.m. . . . but anyway, it’s a magic time. But the key (as NaNoWriMo teaches us) is to sit down and force the words to come, and then they always will. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Elizabeth Stark´s last blog post..The Fine Art and Grunt Work of Inspiration Or, Thirty Shots at Creative Inspiration, Part Two of Three

  4. @Tom Thanks! That’s one of the darlings that I kept in. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Elizabeth With 2 young kids, 8PM is like 1AM!

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