Even when you believe that you have no story to tell, peel apart the fleshy pink undersides of your brain and untangle the red-and-blue vines that wrap around your heart until you find the words you thought had escaped you.
Purchase notebooks, pens, and pencils. But don’t purchase erasers. Erasing your thoughts forces them into oblivion. It reduces them into only bits of rubber on a wide, naked expanse that you could have used to flesh them out into breathing, crying, laughing characters and stomach-tossing, chest-pounding stories.
Don’t you see how using erasers is tragic?
Instead, leave your imperfect thoughts on the page. Scratch through them — carefully, so that you don’t obscure them. Cultivate these infertile words. Use them. Fallow them. Watch different — greener, stronger — thoughts sprout from what you would have laid to waste.
Letter delicate curlicues into the cream-colored pages of a Moleskin journal that costs too much money. Tap your pen against its spine. Lets its blue or black or red (or purple) adjectives, nouns, and verbs spill forth — sweeping you into its rush.
Scrawl chicken-scratch that stretches and pops the neat, straight lines in your 99-cent, spiral-bound, drugstore notebooks.
Grip your pen so tightly that your knuckles whiten. Chew its sweet, metallic tip — let it ink your lips and the corners of your mouth. Whisper to it the secrets you cannot say out loud — those that fester at the bottom of your stomach. Scream at it. Curse at it. Twist and turn it in your hands — use it to unlock the sobs, the snarls, the scoffs caught in your throat.
Jab your pencil so hard against your paper that you perforate every third word.
Throw it across the table so that it bounces off a glass of water and skids onto the floor. Scrape its yellow skin with your teeth — taste its graphite musk.
Attempt lots and lots of very, very bad poetry with mixed metaphors, confusing imagery, and flaccid language. Labor over these poems — sometimes too much and sometimes not enough — but smile when you finally create lines that are neither too sentimental nor too melodramatic but easily encapsulate the intensity of a moment.
Smile because those will be your words, and they will be lovely.
Jot down stories — short and long. Take your characters — your heroes and your villains — by the waist and force them to foxtrot across the page, even if they are clumsy and trip more often than you’d like. Coax them. Teach them. Show them each intricate step. Eventually. they will learn to move in time with you.
Transcribe your day-to-day occurrences so that they stay fresh even after you have filled countless more pages and even after time has draped its heavy, damask curtains over your memories.
Immortalize the two boys who helped you find your way home from an unfamiliar neighborhood in Paris when you missed the last subway train to your arrondisement. Remember their names even after you have forgotten their faces.
Memorize the burn of sand and the soothing salve of water between your toes as you strode across the Santa Monica beach into the Pacific during long California summers.
Remember the feeling that slapped you across the face when your close friend’s mother called to tell you that he had fallen into a coma.
Emulate your favorite writers.
Like Faulkner, write long, flowing, florid sentences that swell, teeter, and threaten to burst at the seams under the weight of words too hefty for their delicate frames.
Like Hemingway, write curt sentences. These are choppy. These are direct. These illustrate points efficiently.
Like Duras, use and use and use repetition to demonstrate how we visit and revisit and revisit incidences of pain.
Let writers who came before you hand you the bricks and mortar you will need to construct your own style.
Realize that they — like me, like you, like anyone has ever stared hopelessly at a blank sheet of paper — have experienced moments of silence. They have doubted their skill, questioned their passion, and wondered if this was really what they knew how to do.
Understand what they understood: writing, like any art, requires the willingness to split yourself open and shake the stories from your bones, snatch the words that rest in your marrow.
So, write. Fill empty spaces with pregnant phrases, clauses, fragments — thoughts half-formed or fully developed — until your wrist aches and your eyes blur.
Try. Try over and over and over again. Fail. Succeed. Write garbage. Write gold.
But, just write.