Human beings only know how to do one thing, and that is create. Whether we are watching television, doing the dishes, writing a poem, or building lawn furniture, we are creating – changing the world, adding to it or altering it in some small way. Because it is all we know how to do, a lot of creation happens unintentionally or repetitively. Some repetitive creation works wonderfully for us: cleaning the house, going to a job every day that we love, cooking the same meal we enjoy. A lot of repetitive creation, however, is a kind of rut, the product of unintentional creation, which is often the result of creating out of fear. When we create out of fear, we create only with the thought: I don’t want this. This is something that frightens us and so we take action whose trajectory takes us away from, say, becoming our father or being unmarried at 40. The problem is that when we act out of fear, when we move away from, we are also moving toward. If you stand up from your chair and think, “I will move away from the computer,” you are also moving toward something else, and what you are moving toward is what you are actually creating. This is why we sometimes look up and wonder: How the hell did I get here?

When we write, we are creating deliberately. When we write, we are sitting down and saying: What can I do with this ineluctable creative energy that cannot stop creating and creating and creating? What would happen if I turned this energy toward something deliberately? This is the thrill and the fear of writing. When we write, we understand our power. When we write, we understand that we can create anything at all, just as we can put any word on the page. There is nothing limiting us but our own choice.

This is why, when I hear writers fretting over what they have written, wondering if it is any good, if it will sell, if it will win awards, I often hear, beneath their worry, the thought: I just realized I can create anything at all, even something I don’t like.

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