The Volcanic Work of Writing

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This is the way of a volcano: In its belly, deep beneath an innocent surface, smolders secret molten rock. A chamber, they call the belly. A room. The room is the place where the fire begins.

To make room, things must shift. Enormous things. The whole world is stitched like a jigsaw puzzle and where the pieces come together, that's where you'll find the heat. Things rock there, and butt up against one another in great jolts, and suddenly separate, causing cracks. To write, you must locate these places. You must find the place where things come together, or where things come apart.

The room burns beneath the usual world, the world with which you are familiar. All kinds of people could walk right over the room without knowing it's there. All kinds of things could grow above the room, green and dripping dew. The point is that the room burns a long time, and maybe nobody knows about it. The pressure pops, though, beneath the surface, the heat sears, the smell indescribable, all sulfur and sweat.

This is what builds the mountain, you know. The pressure and the heat. The things sliding beneath the surface, the things no one sees. They must be given vent. When they erupt, rush and then cool, the mountain grows.

(This is why I believe in secrets, believe in not speaking of your work. To speak of the work is to give the work vent, to let its power seep in small cracks out of you. You cannot do this thing. You must channel it--all of it--through only one outlet; you must let the thing explode.)

This mountain is impossible. But the heat won't abate and the pressure only builds and the very foundations of the earth keep shifting, keep colliding, keep coming apart at the seams.

This mountain is the writer, fingers trembling, belly burning, sidling to the page. Smelling smoke.

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