Guest Entry: Writing about Writing

When it comes to other people’s writing, it’s heavy-handedness that bothers me. A flicker in one’s writing that gives off the vibe of showing off. Words that are too pompous and that want to seduce me by being fake; like reeking of old lady’s perfume. It’s just dishonest, too much. I don’t fall for an arc of distasteful platitudes and I won’t fall for your words if they aren’t heartfelt. I mean, give me something that I can feel comes from the bottom of your heart, not some stupid veneer you put on to write so that people will be wowed. I can feel that smirk on your face, that little self-satisfied, smug expression whereby you’re reaching out to me like ‘Wasn’t that clever?’ No. It wasn’t. That was vanity.

 I want words that are quite simple, but without being stripped of substance. Phrases that don’t greedily jump out at my throat wanting me to love them. Just phrases that ARE. Phrases that give. Not empty expressions like ‘what gives’, ‘raven-black hair’, catchphrases that mean nothing but headaches and frowns for me. Just convince me. Every time I read it’s like I have a date with the material: can it keep me enthralled? Then I’ll spend 6+ hours with it. It can’t? Then I’ll reluctantly try to get through it (or not). And with that pickiness in mind, I try to write myself

I just don’t really want elegant words, frills and pomposity, like I’ve already mentioned. I want some ridiculous, quirky spark to light up your eyes and draw forth a smile. Or maybe something to create a sense of dissolution – redible drugs, or a temporary visual haze. I want to reach that state completely substance-free. That may only be possible if you don’t resist, and channel the power of my words inwards. I just want to reach something deep through them, I want to break something in you and make it fall into a different place. This is hubris, I know, but I want to reach through and change you in some small way with a tiny fragment of me. Even if it’s just one silly word combination, though I would ideally want you to truly hear me. I want to imprint my little spark in you; reignite that idea I created in your head every time your thoughts take the direction of my word flood.

Blank Sheet

I want to fold you like paper
To make a flower of your clean cold façade
And when I’m done to drop you gently
From a balcony’s balustrade
Or I could keep you
But you might cut me
Making me bleed a large dark pearl
Yet what I most abhor is how you sit there
And me not making anything of you at all
You could be that much more.


The beauty of the written word is partly about weaving threads of meaning together. Then it’s also about the slightly metallic, distinctive smell of fresh ink on paper. The smoothness of the paper under your hand and the soothing look of letters filling up the page. It is a bit like stubble on a man’s face – in some cases, it makes the initial thing better, more interesting.

Just putting words down freely can feel easy if you let them pour out, they might just fall out of your pen like sand from a beach towel. It can sometimes even feel as if they were already in the paper, and you only had to scratch away the whiteness hiding them. There is something magical about it: making something appear from the nothingness and leaving a trace. Scribbles showing through the back of white pages already feel like the paper has been infused with soul.

 I was often worried about this action of jotting down words. And honestly, I still am. Words are a fickle business. I was afraid they’d be bad, ridiculous, inefficient, unimportant, or, worst of all, untrue. Like the above-mentioned fake, show-offy effect I sometimes read, that makes me feel disgusted. How do I write ‘true’ sentences? That is, after all, what one is supposed to write. I now realize the answer is perhaps a very simple ‘just write’. Embrace the badness of it. Things can never quite look like the perfection that’s inside your head in the ‘draft’ stage. And whenever you sit down to write, it is a draft stage. At some point the words will ring true and you’ll get used to the process of fine-tuning, refining and polishing them. As long as you’re careful, kind and loving towards them as you would towards budding flowers. And as long as you realize writing is not a direct, off-the-mill business.

Writing from that void-like feeling inside is a double-edged sword – do I hurt more by writing, or do I hurt more if I don’t write? I don’t know, but I need to still the craving, to fill the page and breathe in some freedom. There is a hole in my chest that needs me to write so that it has something to hold it closed – the abundance of words can temporarily fill it. That is where art comes in – that sense of lack can be filled with some kind of meaning. Creating something helps, it’s what being human demands and running away from it is no good. It’s dangerous to not write if you feel like it. Even if it’s bad writing. The ink accumulates inside if you don’t let it out, and it slowly poisons you.

 And the lovely thing is – paper will accommodate anything. No matter what. I suppose that’s the blessing and the curse of writing. Sometimes things will emerge that will cut worse than paper ever could. Seeing the truth glaring at you from the page may be really painful. Yes, you may really hate some words, be ambivalent about others or even doubt the value of them all. But if you feel that pressure in your core that urges you to write, nothing will feel better until you actually do. Really, it’s like not acting on a crush – you think you’re sparing yourself pain and embarrassment but the only thing you achieve is to feel stuck and hopeless about your nauseating feelings. And, like crushes, dreams and fantasies of writing are always more glamorous and perfect than reality. But paper doesn’t reject anything and anyone, it makes no judgement values and it just takes whatever you offer it. The crippling judgements come from inside your head. Way before anyone has laid eyes on anything you’ve written. It’s on you to switch them off and keep going until you like what you see.

Sometimes you’ll find that you’re writing something that makes no sense. It’s botched, and it makes you angry. You think you sound soppy, sentimental, flat or dull. The words may – oh woe! -taste like cheap nougat and you’re afraid they’re not fooling anybody. The image you’ve painted with them looks nothing like what you had in mind. Or you don’t find the right word and everything you try to use seems to rub you the wrong way. You just end up wondering if you were made for this. Yet, you’re not writing for yourself only. The writer’s main hunger is probably usually to be heard, to know they’ve touched someone else’s mind with a filament of theirs. So, keep this in mind: most humans are filled to the brim with words, they overflow. You most likely have that source in you. All you need to learn is how to channel it. You could be someone’s favourite writer someday.

I have felt that steady stream-like energy flow pouring words into my hand several times in my life. But I always crave new metaphors, new meaning. I don’t want to keep using the recurring old mind games and safe dusty beaten paths. I’ll tell you some of mine right now, because you’re a special reader:

  • The attractive-fantasy-protagonist-runs-away-from-home-to-get-freedom-and-adventures
  • The ‘too-perfect-to-be-true’ main character
  • The unrequited love triangle, rectangle or just plain ol’ unrequited love; lots and lots of it because drama
  • Using words like ‘soft’ a lot because I like them. Observe above.
  • Food metaphors (but I won’t give those up because they’re great and actually not that much of a bad thing. Right?)

 I want the feeling of electricity in my words, a gentle tingly prose that overcomes the reader like a rush of cold water from a forest stream. Something fresh to wake you up and yet bring you a deep sense of comfort. Then again, I’d also like to hand you, reader, words like a crushed bug inside an old book. Like the taste of lemon, or the scent of nightly flowers, headache inducing, I want to give you a sensorial overload. Have a little piece of excess with me – it’s calorie free.

Get lost in my loopy mind, play with a part of it, follow me through the maze. Even if you never reach me in real life, I know at least that I’ll have reached out and touched you, giving you a new perspective from a distance (perhaps). Or maybe I could rouse a rush of emotion through you with my words – maybe I’d upset, or anger you. That’s quite good, too. I just want you to hear and react. I just don’t want to leave you cold. Or my sheet empty. That is my goal with writing. And the only way to reach it is by writing. More and more. And showing it to people, well only as much as they’d like to see. So thank you for choosing to read this till the end.

~Otilia Dragan

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