“Write. Don’t Think.”

So I’m reading this book by Ron Carlson called Ron Carlson Writes a Story, and the author said something that made me go :O It was one of those intense silent epiphanic explosions of sudden existential realization… and here it is.

Message: “Write. Don’t Think.”

Context: There are times when writers are so lost in the ending of the story, the final word, the closing scene, the lingering emotion, that we neglect to write genuine and careful “middles.” This is a costly error that robs the story of believability and enjoyability. Professor Carlson recognizes this reminds us that as writers, “our mission is to write the physical scene as closely as we can, knowing that our intentions lie just beyond our knowing. Write, don’t think.”

I read this and instantly I was rapt with thought. The reader in me involuntarily took a step back and applied this to my entire life: I need to get my head out of later and focus on now. Sometimes the wisest and most liberating thing to do is let life happen as it so pleases.

We like to make the metaphor that our lives are stories and that we are ceaselessly filling in the pages of our lives with the accounts of our adventures and misadventures, our romances, encounters, our very deep desires. So it makes sense, right?

I’m 23 as of this past June, and even before I turned 23, I had a frightening habit of flooding my own mind past the point of buoyancy with thoughts of my future career – my future grad school – my future husband – my future family – my future home – my future stories – my future music. I pressured myself to the point where concepts like “security” and “stability” start to scare me. I feel like I should know what’s going to happen to me. I feel like I should closely monitor the narrative of my life. I asked all the age old questions: “Where does this road lead?” “What is God’s will for me?” “What’s going on??”

But Ron tells me “Write. Don’t think.”

He doesn’t mean I should never plan ahead or make an effort to prepare myself for the future. “Write. Don’t Think” is about realigning my attention to the present and letting my hard work right here, right now lead me the best ending that I could never come up with. It’s about being alert, wide-eyed, and very much “in the moment,” learning to let life surprise you with the “later” part. It means not being worn down with concerns for next year when there are so many spectacular things in life to pay attention to right now. It means making room for your instincts and passions to play an active role in your life.

What I need to do is be fully satisfied, passionate where I am and obsess over the poetry of this very second. The ending will be as it should be if I wholeheartedly relish this very moment of my life and give it my all.

It all seems to simple, but it’s actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do… and does it ever get easier?


and there’s a change such knowing hurried her
through the curves of the story,
moments that might have illuminated character and world
and maybe have led the story elsewhere.
Do we want a story to go elsewhere?
Absolutely: elsewhere is our destination.”

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