What Writing is Like

In the musical, Billy Elliot, the title character is asked to describe how dancing makes him feel. He sings one of my favorite songs from any musical ever, “Electricity”. In a touching song, Billy explains exactly how he feels when he’s dancing, and the audience is given a direct look into Billy’s thoughts, into his soul.

I can’t really explain it
I haven’t got the words
It’s a feeling that you can’t control
I suppose its like forgetting
Losing who you are
And at the same time
Something makes you whole
Its like that there’s a music
Playing in your ear
And I’m listening, and I’m listening
And then I disappear

And then I feel a change
Like a fire deep inside
Something bursting me wide open
Impossible to hide

“Electricity” from Billy Elliot, Lyrics and Music by Lee Hall and Elton John

I’m no dancer–although I can do a mean shuffle-ball-change in my tap shoes–but I can totally understand exactly what Billy means. I know what it feels like to chase after that music that’s impossible to hear. I know what it means to be so absorbed in your dream, that the only way to explain it is through metaphor and analogy.

You see, when I’m writing, I feel completely free. I feel the most like myself. And that’s why it’s hardest on me when I’m not writing. So today, while not as eloquently as Billy Elliot, I would like to describe what writing is like to me.

Writing is slightly burnt coffee beans, acrid and earthy and warm in the air.
Writing is bright sunshine through large, open windows, birds singing in the air, kids laughing in the distance.
Writing is the feeling of a cool drink on a warm day. It’s your breath rising in the cold air. It surges through you like the power of the ocean, like the energy of the sun.

Writing renews me in a way that nothing else does; not reading, not painting, not making music. When I’m writing, I’m in control; it’s the only time in my life, sometimes, that I have any amount of control. I get to shape worlds, create characters, mold ideas. I get to speak straight to people’s hearts.

And in long form, I’m not so bad at it. In short form, I’m hit or miss. And that’s okay. Blogging is the thing I do because diaries are so 1994. But when I’m writing my books, spending time with my characters, I’m confident. I’m strong. I’m powerful. I believe that I can do this. I can make it as a writer. And in those moments–when I’ve got my headphones in, when the coffee shop swirls around me, when the world moves without me–I’m the person I’ve always dreamed I’d be. I’m the person I imagine myself as.

I hope, dear reader, that you are able to chase that dream one day. I hope that you are able to find the thing you’re most passionate about, that you’re able to feel the spark of electricity. I hope that you find the thing that makes you want to shout from rooftops, dance through aisles, sing from mountains. I hope you find that thing that makes you who you always dreamed you’d be.

We all need our one thing. Go find it.

The Plucky Reader

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