What is REAL writing? (The case of the babbling brook)

On a recent walk, I treaded upon what some might call a ‘babbling brook’ that ran adjacent to the family-centered park. The water was shallow; heavy, smooth, moss-covered rocks made for slippery pathways from one side of the stream to the other. No frogs, no mallards, maybe a couple of crayfish, and only about fifteen feet away from a plastic playground supported by pieces of shredded tires, and bordered by thin wooden planks. Still, it was canopied by an assortment of trees, and  daggers of sunlight jutted through the leaves’ crevices. Not exactly Yellowstone National Park, but a quiet (ish) place for reflection.

But then I hollowed out all the surrounding noise, and listened…what a sound! Mellifluous as a cello. The brook had such consistency, such purpose, such continuity.  The water knew which direction it was going, and there it went, with unyielding persistence. I sat on a nearby rock and wished I had brought my journal. What a perfect place to write! I could compose the proverbial Great American Novel out here in the partial shade, geese honking from up above, and the echoes of children’s laughter tickling my ears.

Then it hit me, and it seemed too, the water stopped flowing. No I couldn’t.  Who writes sitting atop a rock? My butt would cramp up. What about those unexpected gusts of wind? It’d screw up the pages in my journal—blowing ‘em this way and that. Bugs. Mosquitoes. I might inhale a fly. And am I nuts…children in the distance? Children in the distance? Mid-chapter you’d start to see my handwriting changing, first  the letters would form into a tight hybrid of print and cursive, as though I were writing faster; then, eventually, the words would be bigger, thicker, darker, as though I were writing harder, thus angrier. And can we all agree that angry writing equals poor writing?

There was a time when I yearned for those peaceful sanctuaries where inspiration was conceived and great ideas were born.* But I’ve realized that real, productive writing doesn’t happen that way. It happens at home on the computer. Long, long, hours on the computer. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, inspiration can go to Hell; writing doesn’t get done that way either. Writing gets done by sitting in a chair (not a rock) in front of the computer. Writing gets done a second, third, fourth, etc. time…wait for it…on the computer! It’s rigorous, it’s trying, it’s wearisome, and unlike the babbling brook that travels in one fluid direction (I’m not taking weather into account at the moment) while real writing takes many turns, and often ends in a place where one never even began.

A first draft of a poem? OK, maybe. Ideas? Yes, definitely. A well-crafted, sweat-over, labor-inducing novel, collection of stories, or other long work? Let the babbling brook be. And leave those crayfish alone.

*Cliches intended



Filed under Inspiration, The Writing Life, Writing Process

8 responses to “What is REAL writing? (The case of the babbling brook)

  1. I know exactly what you mean in this post. The amount of times I will write something and then change it, tweak it, fiddle with it, re-write it again, then change the subject is mind boggling to say the least. Sometimes I like to have music in the background, sometimes the TV, sometimes total silence works. Some work is done by pen and paper whilst others are done via computer.

    Writing anything to make sense is no easy task. I see you have mastered it here. Nice Post.

  2. Thanks for reading! I hear you. I mix up my writing routine as well. My main point was that the perfect setting is sometimes good for nothing!

  3. The bubbling brook is definitely a good place to be inspired, maybe take notes, but yes, but in chair works best for drafting. At least for me. 🙂

  4. Awards await you, Katherine. That is if you do them. :))

  5. I prefer writing at my computer, though I have a friend who swears she writes most of her posts in the shower!

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