My favorite season is pre-spring. Not spring, the trees overly arrogant, the flowers showing off on each turn, the birds chirping as if to say we knew it all along, we told you it would come. But the moment before all this, when none of us can be sure that spring will ever arrive. The time when we all doubt it, with winter winds and icy streets and nude branches entrapping us in a snow globe. When the mulch on the ground is made of leaves from fall past, pine needles of winter present and ever-so-slight hints of green desperately attempting to push through. Right then, when all we have is anticipation, anxiety’s delicious cousin, because we know that despite the impenetrable winter, spring will come. The moment when faith matters.
When I attempted to write this all down on the page, I twisted in my seat. My feet tapped the floor, my fingers cramped in frustration at my words. I couldn’t get it quite right. It didn’t sound the way it should. My words didn’t sound the way the leaves did as they collapsed to the unforgiving ground below them. The hushed defeat was somehow absent.
I tried anyway because someone must. There must be an account somewhere of the secret shared with me while I walked in the park, the melody after winter, when the cold begins to lose its grip; when winter begins to thaw.
A writer is an artist of perception. They are secret keepers, observers of the truth, masters of illusion. They are not painters in the conventional sense for they do not aim to take paint to a blank canvas, ask you to see the perfect version of an imperfect thing, offer you a snapshot of something beautiful. Instead, they stroke the paintbrush across an already murky canvas, across an unbeautiful thing, lull you in, ask you to put your own paint on their path. Break the image, see the glimmer of beauty in the crevices of the fractioned pieces. They ask you to really see.
Upon arriving at Columbia, I was fascinated to find that my peers in workshop and I all shared this sense of obligation. The need to share our intimate experiences with those around us, to connect with another by clutching onto the coattails of a word. Writing was our only certain mode of expression, even if it sometimes failed us. It was both our outward and inward appearance, both our safe haven and our source of discomfort. Because though close observation of people and things came naturally to many of us, writing forced us to be honest about what we had seen. It asked us to do the sounds and feelings justice.
Imagine my surprise, then, when after years of plucking words and dripping my intimacies onto the page, a completed first novel in hand, the real skepticism arrived. It was heavy and gray, and settled around my head in suffocating patches. Because the source of the skepticism was unimaginable; it came from other writers: the people I respected most in my own industry telling me the struggles I would face. The expected nod at my 93 rejections from agents and publishers, the pseudo-comforting phrase that it would take 4-5 years to be discovered, the feeling at seeing my own name in the slush pile at work, and the straw on the camel’s back: sitting in the audience of various programs’ MFA panels, uninvited and startled, as the speakers offered suggestions for alternate careers. The girl who sat next to me was the best writer I’d ever read in workshop, and as she scribbled the words paralegal and teacher, her letters collapsed into each other as though they too had been defeated.
If you succeed, no one ever questions the validity of your choices. Until you do, others constantly attempt to push you off path, their cynical words simply an abbreviated version of the methods through which they comfort themselves for giving it all up; the dark words they dress in pastels and pass off as realism.
These were the best writers of my generation around me, and no one would ever know. The Sylvia Plaths, the Ernest Hemingways, the F. Scott Fitzgeralds of this lifetime were putting down their pens and no one was mourning as they abandoned their art. They themselves couldn’t know how they had just damaged the world, for self-doubt is an unavoidable tenant of writing. But I knew.
In digitizing an industry, we both lose and gain. With Napster’s birth, we saw the rise of unknown musicians, but also the lowering of our standards. With more content available, the masterpieces become that much harder to find. With the initial quality control eliminated, the reader is left to his own devices to determine the new standard of skill. But without this initial judge of content, we seek immediate gratification. Why wait 200 pages for a moral of sadness, for an ending that makes you think? Why read a stale classic when you could peruse a fan fiction tale, exciting and familiar? After all, what real difference is there in these works besides the fact that one of these novels would be easier on the mind?
In revolutionizing an industry, must we sacrifice quality? As writing approaches its revolution, what are we willing to trade? Would you give in your copy of Lord of the Flies or To Kill a Mockingbird or Where the Red Fern Grows in exchange for something a little less painful, a little less uncomfortable? My greatest fear is that your answer will be yes. That you might think why not? That if you weren’t required, these novels would go overlooked. Because if you’re not looking, it is nearly impossible to discern quality in a text. If you weren’t seeking it, you might not realize that every sentence in these novels was nursed from just a word, carefully weaned into full bloom by the writers’ delicate hand. You might not realize that it took years to plant the subtle hints of morals that seem to conveniently appear at the opportune time, the ones you seem to stumble upon so effortlessly. You might not be aware that the smile that crosses your face was created by the stroke of another’s hand, that he stared at a hole in a sentence for months until he found the right word. You might not know that it took the author a decade of studying a craft, fawning over it, reading and editing and obsessing over other writers’ work, to invoke the sigh that escapes your lips as you turn the last page.
Without these writers, the magicians of literature, we would be different people. Our reading lists would be simple and our minds would be at ease. We would be comfortable, happy, unaware. We would be bliss. But blissfulness also requires no depth. And if we avoid the crafty, subtle writing long enough, we would lose the ability to comprehend the genuine meaning beneath a piece – and with it, another individual’s take on life as a whole.
“How can you like this season?” my friend had asked, pulling her jacket tightly around her as we walked to class. She kicked at a branch, and the needles fell to the ground, suddenly solitary. “The ground smells like slaughtered Christmas.”
I shrugged, knowing she had answered my question. She hadn’t understood my piece. She couldn’t see it. She wanted the wall-to-wall, life-size, fake image of the beautiful. One piece, ever true, could never satisfy her. I worried that no one would relate to that moment the way that I had. I had failed the secret; I had been unable to do it justice.
But in workshop, one of my peers grinned as she said it, the words that proved me wrong: “It’s like the trees never really die.” And against my desire, I smiled. Because suddenly, we were inextricably linked. Because we shared a moment we didn’t physically share. And all I wanted was to share it with others, spread it, so that somewhere, sometime we could all live in a moment that never really was.
That’s what Writer’s Bloq is: a way to share words. A platform where those words could first be crafted and shaped by writers we know and admire, then carefully streamed from writer to writer to the reader who needed to know someone else felt that way. A network, a central location, a hub for quality writing; where the most skillful writers of our generation could meet in the Parisian Parlor of the net. A community for writers who dedicated their educations to writing, who apprenticed long enough in the craft to know how to create that subtle layer; where strangers could live in an imaginary shred of time, all perceiving the same words differently, except for the slightest shard of glass, shattering the snow globe into the immortal pine needles below.
published originally on Forbes