In order to write, I need to go inside.
Not literally inside a room or a building but inside myself.
I spend weeks, months, and often years on a project learning how to do this, how to get past my outer self and step into the inner imaginary world that I'm trying to create.
It doesn't happen automatically. Even after years of writing, this process takes time and thought, and the willingness to go into solitude, to leave behind the outer world and the people in it and enter this inner space alone.
It’s in solitude, inside this inner space, that I can lower my guard. But to reach this space, I have to be willing (and able) to shed my shell, to meet life without any armor, without defenses, so that I can absorb life in all its variety without anything coming between life and my skin.
Learning to write without any defenses--no judgment, no expectations, no assumptions-- means learning to listen, the kind of listening that can occur only if I've managed to shed my armor in order to welcome life's trials and challenges and joys and triumphs without a protective shield.
Whenever I leave this inner space and set foot outside, I am conscious of leaving this inside world and returning to the outside world, a world filled with conversations and tv and internet and college football games and NBA basketball and handymen re-tiling the shower and bank statements and publishers and agents and errands and food shopping, all the stuff of life.
It's always a strange feeling to emerge from this inner state of mind, to let go of the images and voices in my head, and find myself in this outer world again. It's like stepping from the darkness of a movie into the bright light outside the theater.
Does every writer share this same demarcation line between inside and outside? And when you attend a writing conference, do you notice how it's harder to return to that inside world after spending time in the outside world?
Writing conferences like the Rutgers One-on-One Plus in New Brunswick NJ that I attended a few weeks ago offer wonderful ways of exploring the outside world of publishing and help writers make connections to the world inhabited by agents and editors who are always looking for new and compelling work.
But to create that work, a writer has to leave that world behind.
If we want to write, we need to shut the door to that world, cross over the line between outside and inside, and remove the armor that we had to put on in order to step into that world so that we can look inward again.
It's what we have to do as writers.
As much as we might enjoy spending time with others and delighting in life on the outside, if we want to write, we need to pull ourselves away --pull ourselves inside the theater of our imaginations—and listen closely for the words waiting inside us to be written.