The Real Job

The more I write, the more I understand that my work actually has nothing to do with characters or storylines or metaphors or even words. All that stuff, all the craft of what I do, is hardly the point at all—writing is merely my vehicle of choice to get where I need to go. My real work, the work I have chosen to pursue most consciously through writing, is the job of clearing out space to allow those stories I wish to tell to be told. This is no small job at all. The stillness of mind required to allow through the very best you have to offer can seem a tightrope walker’s route. All the argument, the justification, the judgment—all of it clutters the field where your story belongs. Yet all these arguments, justifications and judgments arose within us to protect us from imaginary enemies—that world of people operating beyond our power we believe have caused or might cause us pain. To put down the sword of argument and judgment is to be defenseless, yet that is just what you must be to tell the best story you can.

And so, for me at least, stories are my mediation, my prayer. When I begin my work sessions now, as always I reread my previous day's work, but next I check to see if the way is clear. If the way is not clear, the story cannot be told, because it cannot be heard. When I was younger, and the way was blocked, I used to turn to the story. I looked upon the story as a problem that needed to be solved. Now, I pull all attention off the story, and still my mind as much as I am able. Once all the chatter and fear is cleared away, something begins to emerge.

If you have a story you sincerely want to tell, and you have told enough stories that you understand the form, then all that can stand between you and the story being told is the clutter of a noisy mind. And do not think you are only clearing away that noise so you can tell a story that you will sell and from whose royalties you will make a living. The story is merely your most enjoyable excuse to experience the pleasure of fertile silence.

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