No Waste in Writing

Discovering What You Are Writing Toward

In a recent comment, Jamey Genna suggested that cracking an egg each time you sit down to write can help writers, not only break through a block, but become less afraid to waste.  While I like the idea of cracking open an egg (literally breaking through a block) and seeing the richness inside the casing as a way to open yourself to write, I balk at the idea of associating waste with writing.

In my experience, writing is never a waste.  Even when your writing is going poorly, when you are stuttering and stammering on the page, when what you read back to yourself sounds just like gibberish, you are not wasting your time.  Far from it. You are writing toward a destination you are not yet aware of.  You never know just when the stammering and stuttering will lift, when the clunky sentences and bland words will become charged and you will bump your toe on buried treasure.


That’s what I find so thrilling—and often moving—about writing.  It is an act of faith, which means you engage in it because you believe in the process.  Not because you are anticipating a particular outcome within a delimited amount of time.

While I have experienced this moment of connection again and again in my own writing—discovering where I am headed just when I feel hopelessly lost—it is when I witness this moment of fission with my clients that I feel most exhilarated.

It might take days, it might take weeks, but I have learned to walk with my clients as they fumble about on the page, encouraging them whenever they despair.  And so often we are rewarded.  Not always, and certainly not often when we expect to be.  In fact, frequently, it is just at the moment I begin to wonder if I’ve misled the writer sitting on the loveseat in my office, wonder if it is time to admit my error, to suggest that we have followed a false lead, it is often at such moments of doubt, that the shape on the page jumps out at me. That where there had been a scramble of lines adding up to nothing, an image surfaces.  Not just any image, but the perfect image, one that calls all the seemingly random lines home.

I had this experience with a writer just yesterday.  He had been writing toward something for over a month.  And while we both knew that he was most likely headed somewhere, we hadn’t been able to discern just where.  Then suddenly, as we were talking, the truth he was writing toward appeared to both of us.  And this truth was so striking, so profound, that I felt it physically, like a jolt to my heart.  Suddenly his path was clear and he was now free to scamper along it, following it to its necessary end.

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