Several unexpected and delightful offerings of praise over the past few days. Food for a famished writer. Especially right now.

I strive to deserve them. I am not sure that I do.

I’ve been feeding my life with writing and art. Not desperation food, not nearly. Joy food. But still the path to the clear writing has not blown clear.

I find myself still outside the story. Still too talky-talky. Still uncertain. Half a writer’s challenge, I think, is not merely solving a problem—it’s identifying it.

I recognize the symptom, but not necessarily the disease. I poke at the apparent issues, but the source keeps aching. For a writer who’s made such an all-consuming investment of time thinking about the damned thing, one would think—hope—that the answers would be clearer easier. They aren’t.

This is the baby-with-the-bathwater temptation. The rip-it-out-and-start-again paradigm. When the forward momentum of the work all-too-closely resembles a reason to live, this is a terrifying prospect. The temporary wiping of the mental slate, the cleansing walk in the woods—neither is possible.

Is this the right step for the plot? What is my character thinking? What was I thinking, writing this passage? Help me, somebody. Speak to me, universe.

These are the torture days. The pecked-to-death-by-a-duck days. Shopping won’t fix what’s ailin’ us. Buying more art won’t. Eating our feelings won’t.

What’s left, then?

Surrender, I think. Worrying the thing to death until the brain coughs up the answer as a pure act of survival. Giving the thing due diligence, yet letting it work itself out on its own.

And here’s the thing: Letting-be is the toughest ask of all.