It is common for writers to feel that they write to discover what they know. This is certainly true for writers of fictional stories, where an idea comes to an author in its dim but interesting form. The writer then spends a month or a year or a decade discovering why that idea is so interesting, and in so doing, translating it into a form where another human being might find it interesting also. But this discovery occurs at all levels of writing, from the largest stories to the smallest sentence. Though I have been doing it all my life, how and why this discovery occurs continues to elude me, even now as I am pursuing it. That is, discovery is always heightened perception. To discover something is to see it – to perceive it – for the first time. If I were searching through sand on a beach for lost coins, I would dig and sift until I perceived coins reflecting in the sun. Even if I unearthed the coins, if I did not see them, if the sun had temporarily blinded me of if the coins were so caked in sand as to be camouflaged, no discovery would have occurred, despite my successful digging.
So it is with writing. To write is to turn our attention within so we might see the world more clearly. Here is where the mystery begins. On a beach I see the sand, I see my hand and my shovel and with luck the coins. But within me there is only the boundary-less expanse of thought. And just as the coin must be separated from the sand, so too must a thought be separated from all other thoughts to be perceived with enough clarity for translation.
Yet thought lacks the engines of shovels and hands. The only engine of thought is more thought. It is easy in this way to become lost in our efforts to discover what we seek. Now we are searching not for a coin within sand, but for a specific grain of sand in a world made of nothing but more sand. Despair not. That which compelled your search, your unique interest and curiosity, remains your truest and only compass. Collect those thoughts to make your interest whole, build it thought by thought. When you are done you will behold that which had lacked only the attention of a curious soul to be made real, and the world will be richer for it.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.