(A slightly adapted version of an essay I wrote for my creative writing class.)
I don’t find writing that difficult when I know what to write about. It’s the not knowing, the trying to choose a topic, that’s tricky. Ideas line up before me in a row and I inspect them. “Too hard,” I might say to one, “too obvious,” to another, and “they won’t like you,” to a third. I’m leery of commitment until I’ve found the perfect candidate—a topic that will display the consummate taste and skill of me, the writer. A real catch.
Sometimes, however, I have to make do with a less-than-enamouring topic. Perhaps that’s because, as in my college days, I’ve been assigned the topic and I have no choice but to make the best of it. Perhaps it’s because what I consider the ideal candidate never appears. Whatever the reason, sooner or later I have to say, “Come on then,” and set off with my rather plain topic to make the best of our life together.
And once I’ve made that decision, I find that—somehow—writing happens. It no longer matters whether or not I like my topic. Not really. I can start writing, even if I feel I have nothing to say. Write a line, scratch it out, write another line, write until I have something, however far that something may be from the beautiful assignment I’d hoped for. Because as long as something is there, it can be improved. Add this sentence. Remove that sentence. Polish that paragraph. You can’t make “nothing” beautiful, but there’s always the hope that, with patience, you can make “something” beautiful.
And it’s not always as hard as I thought it would be. Sometimes I find that when my topic and I are facing each other eye to eye, conversation doesn’t flag as badly as I’d feared. I find we have more in common than I’d thought—that there was more to my topic than I’d imagined on initial inspection.
Sooner or later, the assignment is finished. Sometimes, the only consolation at the end is that I have tried. But there are also times which bring the joy of seeing the beauty under the surface, of nurturing something until it becomes worthwhile, and of glimpsing the secrets that are hidden from roving eyes and come only to the committed.