Serpent Blog

The Tunnel Effect 
In order to write truly, one must feel that he has lived before, a different life in a different world. You must feel it and believe it and make your reader believe it too. When you write, you follow images and feelings from your subconscious, and you sort through them, so quickly, so unconsciously, that the process can hardly be observed, and in your writing you record those relevant to your piece, those that jibe with the feeling that initiated the story, that is the genesis of all stories. This is why Hemingway says that all stories start with a feeling. This is crucial. Because when youíre writing, what you are really doing is mining. You are mining for images and ideas that are associated with an emotion, and an emotional tone. A story must hinge upon a feeling, not just an idea. Such stories stand out like black eyes from among all others. A story that is born in feeling, and that is nurtured through that feeling, is like a living flower within a plastic bouquet. With such a feeling as a foundation for a story, one can tunnel through. You can turn the story around in your hand like a little globe and enter from any point, digging with a pen, chipping out words, carving away, drilling down with that feeling as your diamond-tipped bit, as you search through hundreds, thousands of memory-rich neurons in order to connect those that are not only relevant but true to the story. By God, writing is a miracle.

What I was thinking one morning, as I walked my dog into a dense, fog-filled canyon, was that one of the unexpected pleasures of writing is the tunneling effect. When I sit down to work, most times diving blindly into the page with only a vague sense of where Iím going, I will often discover territory and ideas that had been previously hidden to me. Iím sure you are aware of this sensation, but I, being so new to the art of writing, am discovering unexpected joys almost every day. When one sits and applies oneself to their writing, it is really the application of the subconscious onto the page and thus into the conscious world. Once you grasp this, once you understand that true writing is not thinking but dreaming, you have discovered the secret. This is the key to the kingdom. One image always leads to another. They fall like dominoes, triggering both real memory, and most importantly, imagined memory.

Do you see what Iím saying? I am a mole. I tunnel and tunnel and often emerge in new places, blinded by daylight at first, but then able to see and connect the tunnels together. This is how I write a story.

Good luck to you fellow miner, Iíll see you on the other side.


[Excerpt from the Serpent Box Letters, originally written on Tuesday, February 5, 2002, at the Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco]

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