To create a story is to create a world and characters so vivid that the reader cannot bear to accept it as only fiction. To create a story is to allow the reader to breach a space that fundamentally belongs to the writer, and as they peer into its depths, it becomes its own reality. I’m awed that it is me who lurks behind a keyboard and builds worlds, that it is me who toys with the nonexistent reader’s emotions and plays god to my characters. Despite being wholly unqualified, I try to create stories that will entrance readers and lure them into the make-believe.
The story’s foundation is built in the writer’s imagination, in isolation and darkness, hidden and inaccessible. It begins as an idea that is so easily blown beyond reach. The barest brush at the edge of one’s consciousness and then nothing at all, a wisp of smoke, a dying flame, a final breath. The idea is sneaky, a small mouse hiding and darting across the edges of vision when no one’s looking. To capture the idea, one must be constantly vigilant, hunting and prepared to pounce. The pen sets the trap. At the briefest whisper of an idea floating by, the pen is touched to paper. It rips across the page. It constructs an inescapable prison to store the idea so it will never be forgotten. The keyboard bides its time in the background, preparing for the war it anticipates.
Once captured, the idea is welcomed into the brain. In the mind, the idea festers. It swelters and parasitically feeds on thoughts, leaving no space for anything else. It grows like a fungus, and you allow it, nurture it, cherish it. The idea is a needy infant. It requires constant care and attention to grow. The mind is the mother, willingly throwing all of herself to the idea. It soon eats too many thoughts and is too large to contain within the mind anymore. Pieces of the idea overflow and escape and the mind frantically tries to recapture them, but there is too much. The idea can no longer be contained. It demands to be free, yet the keyboard continues to lie patiently in wait. Brief notes are scribbled, but the keyboard remains mostly untouched as the idea grows into something worthy of it.
Pen cannot keep pace with the flood of ideas that pours from the mind during the exodus. Something always escapes while the pen is preoccupied with decadent flourishes. One must turn to the keyboard to find what the pen lacks: speed. There is something beautiful about the pen, about thoughts flowing in one’s own hand, but as speed increases, legibility is sacrificed. Even the most perfect words are worthless if they cannot be deciphered. The keyboard is cold and mechanical, but endearing, as it never once falters at the barrage of letters that spill from the fingers in a hurricane of story. Every flailing limb of the idea struggles and pushes to escape first. They tug and demand and pull the consciousness every which way. The keyboard is attacked, the fingers venomously striking the letters, matching the speed of the rushing ideas and the keyboard’s hunger for words. Clicking fills the air and becomes music.
The idea is sloppily captured on the page in the rush. Word vomit is splattered to the edges of the sheet, contradictory and directionless and pointless. There are ugly words and cloudy images that must be refined or excised. My mind changes from a loving mother to a soulless surgeon. The love I felt for the leaching idea becomes clinical detachment as I appraise the words with a critical eye. With cold efficiency, I slice into my story, butcher it, maim it, the backspace pummeled, even as my heart cracks and shrivels. I raze my story, decimating the contradictory, the directionless, the pointless, with knives and guns and bombs and keys blazing. It becomes a war zone. Unrecognizable. I assault the keys, my anger expressed through the ferocity of the frantic strokes. The keyboard finds a cruel joy in the vicious destruction of all the words it ever loved.
And then I slow and melt from the violence-starved butcher to the artist. I paint over the fractures with beautiful words. The keys are pressed slowly, gently, each letter carefully considered and caressed. The furious typing is replaced with a graceful dance as the story grows. I nurture the story, feed it and love it once more with beautiful words until it blooms into something lovely, but this time my love is requited. The story sheds its ravenous hunger. It is content and complete. It no longer impedes on my every thought. It settles, finally placated. I breathe a sigh of relief, the battle over and casualties counted.
All throughout the creating and expelling and destroying and rebuilding of the story, the keys clatter. It’s deafening. It’s a wild dance of only the hands. A key is pressed lightly and the finger moves on. There is no proof that the key ever changed except for the letter that has burst into existence like a firework. The letter’s moment of glory is immediately surpassed by the next letter that appears, then the next and next, like bullets fired in quick succession. It quickly becomes nothing on its own, insignificant, but powerful taken in tandem with the other letters. The keyboard hungers for these words. It will become enamored with a beautiful turn of phrase, a romantic. It will encourage a mediocre one to flower, a friend. It will ruthlessly slaughter an inadequate one, a slayer.
The keyboard, a thin, unassuming sheet of squares, is so much more than what it seems. It houses the twenty-six letters, a meaningless jumble of symbols that combine into an innumerable number of words, which are combined in endless, infinitely different sentences and paragraphs and pages and stories. The keyboard allows stories to be told, to exist. It allows worlds to be created and demolished. It is the conduit through which stories can leave a writer’s mind and come alive. And yet, unlike the story, the keyboard does not gloat nor posture. It elegantly accepts praise and continues to work, bearing the vicious tirade of punching fingers as it destroys and creates from ruins.
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