Surprises in Writing

“Where did that amazing sentence come from?” Most of us who write regularly have had the pleasure of occasionally reading over a felicitous combination of words that appear on our computer screen, yet did not feel as if they came from our conscious minds. Rather, they seemed to simply flow from our fingers. When this has happened to me I’ve actually said aloud, Who did that?


One of the great delights in writing is experiencing that happy disbelief when I realize that I’ve allowed something beautiful to emerge from a deep internal place. Whether it’s soul expressing itself or inspiration from an unknown source, I always feel I can hardly take credit, so unconscious was the expression. Rather, I simply sit back and enjoy it, the way I would an insightful or stunning sentence from another writer. In my twenty-five years of writing nearly daily, this has been a rare experience, but one I cherish. When it does happen, it shows me I am “in the flow,” open to the deepest form of creative expression.


Another sort of surprise I’ve experienced as a writer is the shock when I read a completed piece, whether a blog or book, and understand that what I thought I was writing was not the full story of what ended up on the page. A subtext existed that I was unaware of.


For example, I recently wrote a blog on “What Keeps You From Writing?” As a longtime writing coach, I’ve had many clients over the years who had severe difficulty getting to their writing, and I’ve worked intensively with them on overcoming the obstacles which kept them from their desks. This had never been my problem—I’ve always been eager and able to write--so in the blog I approached the topic from the stance of a professional helping others. Yet immediately afterward, as I recovered for two months from an unforeseen series of surgeries, I found myself without the energy or desire to write, a completely new and unhappy event. How astonishing, I marveled, that I wrote a blog about a writing episode that had not yet surfaced in my experience, but was about to be.


These writing surprises show me that for those of us who are born writers, as some are born sculptors or dancers or painters, our art has the capacity to reveal parts of ourselves which are invisible to our conscious minds. How fortunate we are to be able to access those elements through our chosen form of expression.


As a writer, be on the lookout for your own writing surprises. They are gifts--from the gods, spirits, or a mysterious intuition—that we are fortunate to receive, so be sure to celebrate them when they come.


Joan Steinau Lester is the author of five books—both fiction and nonfiction—with another scheduled to come out next year.

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