The Road of Letters

By: Linda Villamarín

Every time we have a book in our hands, a text on a website, or even an email that has reached us, we completely ignore the number of things that happened to bring this piece into existence. All the times it was re-read to avoid errors (the initial, and perhaps most honest, version), all the eyes that passed over and approved it before the text reached its destination, and even the uncertainty of whether it should be written or not. Many times we ignore the reality that writing is an act of courage and self-discovery. And that behind the letters are hidden feelings, fears, stories, and a whole life coming from the fingers of the person who wrote it. So, what if, this time, we stop for a moment to give some real value to the writing process by thinking about all the steps that occur before a written work is published?

Everything starts with an idea. Sometimes we see something (a scene from a movie, a fragment of a book, an overheard conversation on the subway, or even a song) and in our mind, something clicks! You think, I must write about this! A small spark ignites inside us and it makes all the sense in the world to tell this story. That small spark will be charging in our minds for days, making it very difficult to escape from. We must free it from the mind by pulling it out through the fingers, otherwise, the mind won’t be quiet until we do.

This idea, though, has to pass through several approval filters. Normally, we search the internet, books, or even ask someone if this great idea we came up with is as original as we thought, or if, on the other hand (which often happens), we discover that it’s already been quite developed. At this point, you might be disappointed to realize that you’re not the most original person on earth, but, in our persistence as writers, we will insist on our idea by swearing that we see it from a different perspective.

Once the idea has passed through the filter of disappointment, opinions, and comparisons, what follows is to actually sit down and write. So, there you are, very pretty in front of the blank page, thinking about where to start. How do you organize all the components of the idea? How do you land all the swaying ideas that buzz through your brain in chaos? Suddenly, the hands, letting themselves be carried away by the dance of letters, simply begin to move and the words flow, streaming from your brain, coming out like an extension of yourself, leaving pieces of who you are on a piece of paper.

As one writes, the idea itself transforms. As if the letters had a life of their own, as if the story itself, beyond our expectations, decided how it wants to be told. No matter how much we want to take it by the reins like a horse, it just won’t obey. Literature doesn't work like that. Emotionality doesn't respond to mandates. Otherwise, it would be half-botched and destined to fail.

Suddenly, the body is relieved by sweating letters and the hands, agile and without stopping to obey the rational logic, fall on the paper like thunder, fire, electricity, without stopping to think how much energy comes out of them, giving life to the text and in the end typing that final period. That dot that comes out like the last heaving breath of an orgasm that had contained itself until exploding definitively. That moment, in which we leave the universe, we are only our poetry. That moment in which time stops and everything disappears. Being left alone with our idea, producing it as in a magical birth, is one of the most special and fantastic moments of writing. It is one of those moments in which the love for letters is reaffirmed. It is a perfect moment of life.

When we’ve finally finished our writing, there comes a time when it’s necessary to leave it still and far away, like when you need a break from your relationships to take some distance and rethink. We pretend to ignore it for a while. It could be hours or even days. For many, it might last years. We walk away, pretending that it no longer controls our existence or everything we think. We walk away to decide whether we love it or hate it.

Many written works won’t survive this phase. Some wait for their creator to receive the look of rejection and their destiny will be to return to the trunk from which they may again one day leave. Perhaps their destiny will be the garbage bin or that space for bad ideas that almost came to be. However, if our writing succeeds in overcoming the filter of love or hate, or at the very least of acceptance, the next step will be to decide how our words come to light.

The decision of where to publish it is something else that eats at the mind. To whom will we show it? With whom will we open ourselves to show it? An editor, a boss, a partner, a relative, or a complete and impartial stranger?

We finally decided to send it, and that phase, with no way to turn around, begins. It happened. We sent it. Our writing is gone and now comes the worst: the long wait. Do they like it? Hate it? Love it? The questions come like crazy, unceasing, and the uncertainty is worse now. We imagine that we shouldn't have given it to that person, to that editor. Pessimism is more present than ever. Although in some cases, we may feel optimistic. It's not common, but it happens. The attentive response to the answer itself and not knowing how long it will last can be hopeless.

Our writing is gone forever. It took a path, which may or may not be the one we would have liked. It’s almost like seeing your children build their own life. And while going through life, they will receive many looks and opinions, which may or may not be positive. The point is, we can no longer bring it back. Once the writing is an object, it reaches someone else's eyes and ceases to be only ours. The looks of others will transform it and maybe not as we’d expected. We may even end up discovering things in it that otherwise we would not have noticed.

And now, in the hands of someone else, what will happen? Will you keep it among your favorite books? Recommend it to someone else? Keep it hidden away? We no longer have control over anything that happens next. Our child, to whom we gave birth, the product of dreams and magic, took his own way. Just as this same text in front of you, which was written on a foggy Sunday, with the clouds now on earth almost touching my window and covering the view of the buildings in front of it. And from inside, I’m convinced that the clouds knew I would sit down to write, so they synchronized and came down to cover the distractions of the city and helped me to concentrate.

The truth here is, a written piece is never simply just that. An idea is always more than this. The words on paper have more stories behind them than we can imagine. Every text has a whole world behind it. That's the magic of writing. You never know what you're going to find, what world you're entering. And best of all, it's infinite. During the writing exercise, so many things happen that it simply becomes a way of life. A beautiful way in which we always get to know more about ourselves, and we always have the chance to be who we want to be.

WWBL Author