8.5 X 11 inches

The writer's pathway forward is a simple trap door that measures 8.5 X 11 inches.

Our wide, incredible world holds seemingly endless horizons and opportunities. For a writer, the vastness of ideas can produce a mad rush of inspired thought or a wellspring of nothingness, a crippling paradox of wanting to journey forward but feeling trapped at the end of an alley. In this state of despair, a writer can discover a hidden trap door to escape that dead end.

Photo by Reuben Farrugia on Unsplash

A while ago, I attended a writing workshop at The Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis. The remodeled warehouse exudes writerly dreams. Glass pages unfurl up the winding staircase, by-gone writer’s advise present-day hopefuls though quips inscribed upon tree stumps and other objects. One certainly could drift into creative machinations with so many word packed vibes emanating from all corners. Yet, fifteen or so writerly types sat neatly, quietly, respectfully around a large wooden table with notebooks and pencils ready for the only paid writer in the room to begin disbursing wisdom about how to get started writing and to give us a kernel of insight that freed us from the back alleys of despair.

The introduction activity furthered my inhibition providing proof that I was not the writerly-type. As a way of introducing ourselves, we were to mention our favorite shape. Not one person said her favorite shape was a square as the Writer’s 101 handbook must dictate that a writer’s favorite shape must not box one in. The AA-like truth telling spilled forth along with names and shapes: bipolar, addictive personality, depressed, and anxious. An entire DSM-5 was recorded as the introductions circled the room. It wasn’t humorous, of course, because how can another’s personality disorder be a joke, and yet, by God, it was, well, uncanny. No wonder I struggle to write. I’m pretty mentally sound and do not have a favorite shape.

Then the writerly exercises like listening to music with our eyes closed and looking at pictures to elicit a thought led to words on the page and the reminder that those words on the page really do constitute writing. The guy getting paid reminded us that the essential act of writing is to create a space. That’s all. Writing does not require a particular desk or a certain mood or the perfect inspiration. Nor does it require a clinical diagnosis. Just a rectangular space of 8.5 by 11 inches, to be exact.

It turns out the trap door at the end of the alley looks about the size of a piece of paper. Just a simple rectangle to hold words is an escape into that writerly world of vast horizons. Turns out I do have a favorite shape.

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