Sometimes you ride the words, sometimes the words ride you.

And sometimes, even staying on for eight seconds is about as impossible as it gets.

Been working on a scene about a fire; a blind man caught in a burning room… how it feels to smell the smoke, to have one’s senses fail one by one in the struggle to find an to escape, until all that is left is surrender.

It’s an evocative passage, full of terror and tragedy. And yet, it has been a labor of Sisyphus to get it over the top. Mental prep for creating a scene like this is, at its best, a joy…a full, rich readiness to create that world-entire caught in the bell jar between the ears. And yet, this time, that eagerness has stopped just short of my  ability to realize it…half-hearted foreplay that goes wearyingly on and on, with no conclusion in sight.

Which gives rise to (you guessed it) a question: Can a writer write deep emotion without feeling it?

Fear deserves fear. Love warrants love. If the writer can’t bond with a character closely enough to feel his deepest emotions, are we just toying with him? Can we truly create anything more evocative, more powerful than rote feelings when our lazy-ass auto-pilot is engaged? If the feeling is not there, is execution, is craft, enough?

As with most of the questions I ask here, I don’t really know the answer. And troublingly, sometimes even the satisfactory completion of the passage won’t yield an answer.

I finished the section. It is working? To a degree. Is it competent? Yes. Do I feel the terror? No. Do I feel the character’s slow surrender of hope in a situation that can have no upside? Not sure yet…but the thing is closer than it was.

After days like this one, I am glad to know that there are days-after to study, reconsider, rework. In the weary confusion of evening, it’s comforting that tomorrow offers another ride.