What Writing Looks Like

At my job I'm supposed to be writing, but at one point I pushed the chair back from the desk, crossed one leg over the other, put my hands behind my neck, leaned way back in the chair, and stared at the plaster wall for a couple minutes toward the end of which I worried that someone might walk in and doubt I was earning my keep. Had anyone asked what I was doing, I would have wanted to answer, "I'm writing," but probably would have said I was thinking because so few people would believe that, staring at the wall, I really was writing.

The look of writing differs throughout the process, changes according to the kind of work and the tools employed, and varies according to the writer. It even sounds different. I talk to myself while writing, whispering the lines as I work through something difficult. Sometimes writing is a good pen moving across and down the page. Most of my writing has me sitting at a desk rapping too hard on the keys and beating holy hell out of the space bar with my thumbs. I'd hate to share an office with me. But writing is also staring at the wall, looking out the window, filling the water bottle or coffee cup, crumpling a sheet of paper, massaging the eyes, and sometimes going for a walk or a run. Aaron Sorkin writes in the shower. I doubt he brings the paper and pen or his Macbook in there, but he's not taking a break so much as advancing the process.

No one questions Aaron Sorkin at this point. Not anyone with half a brain. I'm a lot less established and feel the need to account for what I'm doing. Good people are paying me money to write and I'd hate to have them think my staring at the wall is a waste of all that. I want to explain that looking at the wall got me the fix for the paragraph on page three. I pretty much wrote it on that wall, my body reclined in the chair, hands behind my head, but the pen in my head writing, scratching, and rewriting words. I found the words as if they were written in the textures and patches on that wall. I just needed to see their outlines enough to begin hearing them drop into place one after the other, one sentence and then another.

Now that's writing.

No one caught me in the act of it and had to hear my explanation. Except you.

I've been staring now at the two-word sentence that precedes this one, wondering, how will this end? Check back with me in a while. I'll still be staring out the window, into the pattern of the carpet, or maybe even at the painted wall. You'll have to get my attention. I leave this world when I'm writing even without pen or keyboard involved. I hate to come back until I've found the words and have arrived at the period that finishes it off just so.