On Writing, And Losing Control

This week is backwards. I set out to write, and so I read, losing myself in the words of other people, transported to their little houses, to the bird cages where they admire eagles, to their bedrooms, where they fall asleep in silence next to someone they used to love. Writing is like this sometimes. Falling in love with your own voice because you begin to recognize it in others’ pages. Discovering the story you want to say somewhere between the second stanza and the third. Recognizing a word, a phrase that feels like cotton in your mouth, or maybe honey, and the sticky-sweet coating, both beautiful and suffocating in the back of your throat. And suddenly the story is there. It was there all along. Suddenly you aren’t writing; you’re understanding. You’re knowing the story you want to write. You’re knowing the words. You’re knowing the language that’s been stuck to the roof of your mouth, just waiting for a cool glass of water. Just waiting to be released.

I wish I could make sense of language sometimes. Why words are spelled so strangely, why sometimes we say one thing and mean another, why sometimes what we need to speak aloud tumbles out of us, and sometimes it slows, getting tangled on our tongue.

I set out to write, and yet I find myself thinking in circles, remembering faces of people or places I used to be. Wanting to write something—something grand, something that makes sense—and instead remembering the dream I had last night. The dream of a plane, spinning in the sky like a top. And there I was, in the middle of a grassy field, surrounded by stars and yet alone, watching this plane, thinking it was going all too fast and planes weren’t supposed to move like that. And then it turned, vertical, nose pointed downwards to the earth and fell. And somewhere off in the distance I could see it explode, see the flames, see the glass shoot up around the metal body like fireworks and I closed my eyes, waiting to feel the crash reverberate beneath my feet. But nothing. And I took off running in that direction, like we do in dreams. It made no sense but I felt this urgency. I felt those tears running down my face. I felt like this was real, this was happening, and if I could just get to that spot between the houses where the plane had landed and all those people—could I help them?

Writing is like that. It starts, not by writing, but by thinking. By forgetting. By re-remembering. By losing all sense of time and place and rules and putting your fingers to the keys or pen to the paper because you know there’s something there and you’re suddenly unafraid to find it.

Writing is reading. Writing is imagining. Writing is falling asleep to the rest of the world as the air conditioner hums in the background and bunnies nibble grass outside the patio window. And there you are, hearing the fan spin lightly in the family room, and yet not hearing it at all. Only hearing the words cycle through your head, making sense of the essay you read yesterday about a woman in a birdcage watching an eagle’s wings, the dishes in the sink, the boy who won’t answer your phone calls, the boy who always will, the dream of a plane crashing through the Midwest sky—and does this all mean something? Is it all spinning around you, reminding you that as much as you try you will never have control? As much as you try to write, the words will always write you?



Featured Image Credit: Alvaro Serrano