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.