The Un-Haunted House


I’m back at my old writing desk. My eldest son has returned home for a few months, and so the bedroom I’d converted to an office is a bedroom again. I did a lot of good work here, but I suffered much as well, particularly working on those last few novels when I was really done writing fiction but couldn’t admit it. It was here I learned the unique pain of trying to create something without inspiration, without connection to the actual source of all new and interesting ideas. I have never felt so alone as when I went looking for what should happen next and found nothing. It was like returning to the city where I’d grown up and discovering it was a ghost town.

Writing can become scary when it goes like that too often. You don’t know what’s waiting for you at the desk. I don’t like horror stories, particularly those in haunted houses. I don’t like the long, dim hallway ending in a mysterious locked door, the television that turns itself on and off, the sudden face of a little girl in a mirror. When I was a kid, I’d dread walking into strangers’ homes. I could feel whatever pain the family carried the moment I crossed the threshold. The pain was like a ghost, hovering about unseen, haunting every moment it went unaddressed.

This old desk isn’t haunted, however. I turned this corner of the studio into a place to meet with clients, where I’d talk to them about finding stories, and getting into the flow, and writing only what you love to write. Sometimes I’d tell them tales of my own troubles, and it was useful to reach over and touch the very spot where I’d suffered the most. Pain’s a great teacher if you listen to it, and if you want to teach you soon discover that your greatest lessons grew from your darkest despair.

I admit, I wasn’t happy when I learned I’d be returning here. I’d grown to love my office in the house. I guess I’m a little fussy and superstitious. Strange for a writer, though, since wherever I go to write is never where I am when I write. You can’t start writing until you forget where you’re sitting, forget the four walls and windows, and forget the past and your grievances with it, and the future and your concerns about it. Where I actually am when I write is with me always everywhere, my first home, forever un-haunted by the scary stories I’d told myself of a world I feared was governed by pain.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
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