Writing Is Physical

Writing is physical. Thoreau said that over time an old poet learns to guard his or her moods as carefully as a cat watches a mouse. Hemingway advised writers to quit work each day with a bit of juice in the tank, knowing what would be coming the next day—a line of dialogue, a scene—so the writer could then slip more easily back into the dream of the story and not have to expend extra mental and physical energy—the sparks of friction—diving back down into the dream. He didn’t use those words—he compared the process instead to turning down the flame in a pilot lamp to the cool blue glow of just-waiting—but I like to think of it as a diving-down, a submersion, a re-immersion, into the subconscious: the wellspring of discovery, at which the traditional lens-shaped structure of the short story—six to eighteen pages—excels at delivering.