What satisfies most writers: it’s not what you think

may 5 newsletter

The most satisfying part of writing is making contact with the unknown. 

Since we were young children, we writers have been enchanted by mystery, drawn to that place where we glimpse something greater than ourselves. It still gives us a sense of wonder, astonishment, and deep belonging, doesn’t it?

As adults, getting through that portal can also be our most uncomfortable task. Why?

Because our ego loves to know. Understand. Expect. It’s obsessed with certainty-security. With good reason!

Knowing is survival. Future safety. And society rewards us for it.

What’s not so well prized is our ability to hang out in the unknown. 

That’s why our mind throws a stop sign when it encounters a blank page, unexpected twist, or random new idea. 

If we want to consult the mystery, we’re going to have to let that rational, responsible, market-conscious part of our mind take a little nap. 

We can whisper to into that part of our mind:

  • Uncertainty is a very good sign. 

  • Unusual questions are worth asking. 

  • Seemingly random images may yet reveal a deeper meaning. 

We might not always know with certainty where the magic lives. It doesn’t have a fixed location, separate from ourselves.

And... it is always there. 

We can’t arrive by entering the address. 

Only by getting lost. 

By disappearing. 

You know what this feels like. When you’re following the mystery, it’s like you’re not even there. 

So let uncertainty be a sign that you’re on the right track — you’re disappearing. 

Assure your mind: it’s safe to wonder.

This month’s Sunday letters help us cultivate this state of wonder. 

Wonder is a sense of admiration and astonishment for what you cannot explain. 

It’s also pondering the question without grasping for answers. 

Let us approach our writing with more wonder, less pressure. More curiosity, less fear.  

We can’t know what it is that turns a seed into a tree into a flower into a sweet crunchy apple. The only thing we can know is craft. 

Craft gives our mind something to do. It helps us translate the ineffable, once we’ve sensed it. 

Our only responsibility is to study, practice, and show up. 

The rest is unknowable. As it should be.

Yours in wonder,

Photo credit: Rob Tol on Unsplash

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1 comment


This is so beautiful, Sarah. Thank you for writing these words.
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