The Unfamiliar

Each sentence we write is a thought. It might be a small, common thought, or it might be a large, unusual thought. Regardless, each thought gets translated into words that form the larger thought of your story, your book, your blog. As always, thoughts come to us. We ask for thoughts around a certain idea, they arrive, we choose those that please us, and we translate them as accurately as we can. That is writing. Our job is to be selective of our thoughts, and accurate in our translation. Our job is not to write beautifully, or to write cleverly, or profoundly, our job is to write accurately. It is the thoughts that are beautiful, clever, or profound, and our only responsibility is to recognize them as such and then translate each thought.

Many thoughts, however, are worker bee thoughts, little ordinary sentences that move your story along necessarily. It is important to give these sentences the same attention you would any other. You practice your accuracy with every sentence and without judgment. This way, when a queen bee comes along, you will simply continue doing your job translating accurately; in fact, you may not even realize she is a queen until you have translated her.

The more I write, the less challenging I find the translation. Once I have selected a thought, once I can see it clearly, the translation goes relatively easily. It is the choosing of the thoughts, however, that can still fill me with uncertainty. Every thought forks into other thoughts. I stand mentally at these forks, feeling those that are familiar and those that are not.

I know my job is to choose the unfamiliar, I know I have come to the desk to explore, not return to the site of a previous victory. But darkness is darkness, and to translate I must first illuminate what I have until that moment chose to leave in shadow. This, perhaps, is the only real courage I have ever known in my life. Just that – to step mentally down a darkened hall and see what I have hidden from myself.

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