Gentle Fingers

Where does magic come from?

Is it written in our bones

crack them open

expose our spirit to the world?

Is it stamped on the inner side of elbow

A tattoo in invisible ink

I don’t think so

I think magic lives outside of human beings

but if we are lucky

and very quiet

sometimes we bump into it

and take a little piece away to live inside us

tumble it over like a special talisman

Try and own it, and it disintegrates into dust


enjoy its rising

its setting

and hopefully by letting it come and go

like a stray cat who visits

one day it finds

perhaps it enjoys living here after all

*But first we must make a lovely home for it.

A little thank you to my muse. I’m in yet another round of edits on my book. Or rather, completing the ones I should have had done before Christmas but then holidays got in the way.This is the longest running process, entirely my own fault. I pin so many unnecessary emotions on this production and then weigh it down so much it sinks into the depths of my consciousness and then I have to employ a great deal of effort to go and haul it back up again where I can see it and work on it.

Stories are funny things, at first they are wonderful entertainment that we are so enthusiastic about telling. And then we mangle and wrangle the thing into what we want it to be. What we think might sound better. And then we hate it. And we leave it alone and will have nothing to do with it. Then one day, we open it up, perhaps with a wiser head, and just let it be itself instead.

I was reading a book before Christmas, about writing, my style of writing. I think writing style is rather like a family trait, a sibling. You don’t get to choose what or how you write. You just have to be grateful that you get to do it. As an avid reader all my life, when I began writing I wrote like I was reading along with the story, It’s a wonderful way to write, I have no idea what is coming next and have just as much surprise as any reader. Years later I learned that this style of writing is often called “writing into the dark”. A phrase that is just as exciting and scary as it sounds. No control, just write, and the story unravels. Which would be great except I have this personality trait that is born from the mind of an anxious child, who was often thrown into situations out of her control and therefore as an adult, tries to avoid doing this to herself.

The name of the book which I read is called “Writing into the Dark” by Dean Wesley Smith. It’s packed with ways to help the writer who employs this style of writing. There is one technique that sounds simple but makes a huge difference. It is to write in a notebook alongside your book as you write, and explain what has happened in each chapter after you have written it. It doesn’t have to be detailed, just what has occurred, what the characters are wearing that sort of thing. I can’t believe that I wrote an entire novel and didn’t have this technique in place. It still works though. In this round of edits I am going through my book chapter by chapter and writing down the pertinent details. I’ve fixed holes and leaks and things that don’t quite add up.

You would think that a writer would remember what they wrote. No, I don’t. I have a general gist of things but even if I had done this immediately after finishing the book (which was a couple of years ago now) I still would not have been able to recall every detail. And a computer document is so ephemeral to check back through. It becomes confusing and boring. The summary of each chapter though, and the process of producing a book about your book soon enables you to see everything more clearly. You get to know your book on a whole different level. It is one thing for an editor to find and point things out, it is another entirely to take your story in your hands again and let it go where it wants to while following along and carefully ensuring it is making sense where it is crucially important that it does so. In the small boring details that can trip the entire thing up. Like consistency, what people look like, what they said, holes in plots that started out great but don’t work further along in the book, that sort of thing.

There are plenty of other great tips and techniques in Dean’s book. I chose this one to post about because I am using it today and found it immensely helpful.

And this is a two part post.

The bit of verse at the start, derives from my bemusement at where stories come from. I recall writing this book of course, but I have to admit that I hadn’t read it properly back to myself in its entirety. I fixed things where pointed to by the editor but I hadn’t sat down and analysed the entire book from start to finish impersonally and as a reader should, but with a writers control of the outcome. Now that I have done that, or begun to, there are some parts of it that are astonishingly good, laugh out loud funny. And very smooth. I know I didn’t write that part. Or not on purpose. I know I wrote the janky bits because I recall trying to struggle them out, But the good flowy imaginative enjoyable parts – they were written by magic. Surely.

I’m not sure where magic comes from when writing, or creating any sort of art, but it is something that we cannot wrangle or control. Rather I think its always there, always has been, we have to bring ourselves into alignment with it.

I am reading another excellent book at the moment which seems to explain the process beautifully. Rick Rubin is an American record producer who has coached many talented artists toward their best work. He has worked with extraordinary creatives, but in reading his book, I think he is perhaps the truest artist of all, because he has aligned himself with the source that we all pull from and in doing so, explains it in a way that resonates. I’m not finished his book but I am thoroughly enjoying it so regardless, I’m highly recommending it to any other writers, artists, musicians etc. It is called “The Creative Act: A Way of Being: by Rick Rubin. It’s a bestseller, of course, as it should be, and in fact all the paper copies had sold out when I tried to buy it, so I bought the kindle version but will probably buy the paper version as well, it’s a special book.

“We tend to think of the artists work as the output. The real work of the artist is a way of being in the world. Living life as an artist is a practice. You are either engaging in the practice or you’re not”

Rick Rubin

When I read this last night, many pieces that I had been thinking about, and struggling with writing fell into place. The practice is so much more than the work. The work is so much more than the output. And the work isn’t always the practice, and the practice certainly isn’t always the work. The practice looks like eating well, moving, noticing, being in nature, being organised, being healthy, reading, relaxing and doing enjoyable things. Then the practice is also sitting down and creating. And the output can start off like crap. But the practice, if good enough will eventually go back and eradicate the crap, settle into a habit that overcomes procrastination and becomes a true practice.

The art of practicing magic.

We have to be in alignment with the source. And as Hooley Dooley as that sounds – it is true. Online shopping is fun and a wonderful distraction but it will not get you into the creative space in which you can open yourself to a story that wants to be written – and then write it. This is what I told myself last night as I put aside the endless void of distraction that my phone can be, and turned to the laptop, opened my working draft of the book and picked up a pen alongside it. I began writing my book about my book.

I’m nowhere yet with the craft of writing, that would look like success to someone who was looking at my output, but I know I am getting somewhere with my practice. Reading Rick’s book affirms that. And I do believe that if we practice correctly and diligently then we end up somewhere, whilst simultaneously remaining right where we need to be.

The magic is here, it’s available, all the time. We just have to be open and be available enough ourselves to be able to receive it.

And trusting enough to let it come and go without putting weight onto it.

Easier said than done.

I know.

That’s the post done too. Have a great day X

13 thoughts on “Gentle Fingers

  1. You’re the second person I’ve read this week who’s mentioned that Rick Rubin book…and when that happens, I know I need to get it. Actually reading it, though, is another story…I start plenty, but rarely finish.

    Your book journey resonates with me – how we lose steam then put it aside eventually, only to come back later. My second book is like that – a journey of its own. I started it 3 years ago and since then, 2 other books have pushed in the way (one published in 2020, and the other coming next month hopefully)…yet it’s gone through several revisions and big changes, and now I sit looking at it and really not liking what I’ve got…just needing a complete overhaul.

    But I’m not going to work on it for a long time yet. I think it needs its own time to breathe, and when it’s ready, something will happen to bring it all together. I can’t force it.

    And that magic you speak of…yes – you have to make space for it. You have to give yourself silence and emptiness and mental and emotional room, otherwise it rarely comes. And these days, it’s a real effort to actually quiet the noise and make that space – whether it’s the outside noise, or our own habits pulling us to indulge in consuming more and more and more content.

    And congrats on making it this far with a novel! To me, that’s way harder than poetry or prose…it takes real dedication to write out an entire story (regardless of how many years it takes).

    • Hi Yacoob, so lovely to hear from you, I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this. Yes, get the book, I’m sure you will find it worthwhile, I am savouring it, something I rarely do with a book (usually I read them so fast and on to the next one, but this one is certainly worth the slower pace)
      Mental space, actual space is so difficult to find, you would find it even more difficult with a young family.
      My book journey has been so long, I hope the second book is faster, but I have picked up a lot of valuable tips and self-knowledge along the way. I’m lucky to have a small team of cheerleaders also helping and pulling me along when I collapse in self-doubt. Regardless it is a solitary thing writing and so easy to set aside, the easiest thing to set aside, and yet also the hardest, because our untold stories chew at us.
      Best wishes for your own writing goals, I hope the words and ideas flow for you.

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