Follow The Mystery

I don’t know if I would be able to teach writing. Even though I write about it, more or less, every day in this blog, and even though I could talk about writing at anytime and anywhere, in the end, I am only a following a mystery. I have pretenses of a plan, which I call an outline, but there is no plan. The only plan is to follow the mystery as faithfully as possible.  I talk about craft and technique, and I have rules for myself for what I should do or shouldn’t do—but the only rule is to follow the mystery.  All my techniques are just tools to guide me through the dark and I am not particular about what these techniques look like as long as they serve me in this journey.

I am happiest when I am letting myself follow the mystery. I am unhappiest when I think about getting anything right. I don’t know how to get anything right. I only know if I am close on the trail of the mystery or not. When I am close on the trail everything is clear and the characters surprise me and I am filled with details and I don’t want to waste any time with even a single detail that does not serve the mystery.

I am happiest when I am following the mystery because it is unknown to me, and when I follow it I am making peace with the unknown. I must drop the pretense of knowing beyond knowing that I am interested in following what interests me and that that is all I will ever have to know. Trying to know what I cannot know exhausts me and leaves me feeling talentless and dull.

If I could teach someone how to follow their mystery I would, but I wouldn’t know how to begin. I think maybe stories are the best teacher. The best stories are always filled with the generosity of life’s enduring mystery, open to everyone, answerable by no one, visible everywhere, but elusive enough to draw us continuously forward.

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