The words will come

I’m a nerd. Not just your average nerd. Big nerd. I have an app for everything, even one that rates public restrooms. You laugh, but it’s a lifesaver. But I’m astonishingly unnerdy when it comes to writing.

I’ve tried many of the tools out there that are supposed to make my life as a writer a lot easier, but I always go back to just a couple of Word documents (one for my manuscript and one for a sort of manuscript journal) and a notebook. I do use Evernote on my phone when my notebook isn’t handy, but I almost always forget what I need to write down by the time I tap my way to where I want to write it. See, very unnerdy.

So I can’t say I use a lot of tools of the trade when it comes to writing. But there is one thing that is essential to my writing, something I’d never be able to do without. A long, long walk.

When I first started writing, I got stuck all the time. It was so frustrating. I could feel the words in my head. They weren’t fooling me. I knew they were there, settling in with a nice cold one and laughing at me trying to get them on the page. “Ha!” they’d say, “Come and get us! We dare you!”

I’d get so frustrated that I had to get out of my apartment (back when I had an apartment). Luckily, I lived in downtown Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley, where stores and restaurants stay open late. So even far into the evenings, I could take long walks on the brightly lit sidewalks to calm myself down.

And you know what happened? The words came out. Those long walks taught me that instead of forcing the words out, I needed to calm down and let them come to me.

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Tyson and Reba

Last year, my husband (then my fiancé) and I bought a house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. My long walks are no longer on sidewalks in a bustling high tech town. They’re now on hiking trails among the redwoods with our two dogs, Tyson and Reba. I take these walks not out of frustration like I used to, but as an act of faith that the words will come. I just have to be ready for them.

Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy is trying to get the Grail to save his father and he has to take a step into what looks like a bottomless drop? He has to have faith. And that’s hard for him. But he closes his eyes and steps. And look at that. A bridge reveals itself to him. That’s what it’s like. Sometimes you’ve just got to take that step and have faith the words are there to get you where you need to be.

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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This article has 11 Comments

  1. Running does it for me — whenever I’m stuck, or feeling frustrated, I go for a jog — rain, snow, heat, doesn’t matter. It’s the very best way to clear my head and help the story form 🙂

  2. I’m pretty sure I need to come visit and walk through the redwoods with you (northern CA is one of my favorite places). I’m always impressed by people who can use Word successfully to write a book.

    Wonderful post!

  3. I’m with Amy! I see a road trip in our future. And I’m SHOCKED that you don’t use any fancy writing programs. I just use Word as well, but that’s because I’m hopeless with technology and that’s as close as it gets to a typewriter (which is probably what I would be using, if White-out wasn’t such a pain in the butt).

  4. I’m totally tagging along on that road trip! Love Santa Cruz, and Shelly, your neck of the woods (haha!) sounds just gorgeous.

    I find my prime unraveling time is in bed, the night before. I set my mind on a particular problem I’ll face on the page the next day, and then the next morning, I’ve some how found a way in.

  5. First of all, I’m jealous of your new home. It sounds gorgeous! Second, I couldn’t agree more with you–writing is often about a leap of faith and trust in the process. I’m so glad you got there. Look at you now! Looking forward to seeing your novel soar.

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