the wilderness

On Writing“A voice of one calling in the wilderness…” That’s how the book of Isaiah prophetically describes John the Baptist, the guy whose job it was to let people know that Jesus had arrived. Now, I don’t mention this to start a theological debate. I’m not making a statement of belief, and I’m certainly not trying to sway your convictions, dear reader. To quote Shepherd Book, “I don’t care what you believe in–just believe in it.”

No, I mention that quote because it’s always grabbed me. It’s the image. John isn’t even described as a person calling in the wilderness. He’s just a voice. It’s like he’s nothing but his words. And that doesn’t sound half bad–at least, not to someone like me who traffics in words. Until, that is, you take into account his setting.

A voice of one calling in the wilderness. Talk about a shitty stage. Good luck projecting well enough to be heard from there, buddy.

But sometimes, that’s what writing feels like. Sure, there are moments when the words flow with so much fluidity that they seem positively liquid. It’s like there’s a river of creativity originating from your fingertips. As you type, the current takes hold. The prose floods the page, leaving every inch of it wet with words.

And then there are the wilderness moments. Times when your throat feels dry, you’ve inadvertently swallowed so much sand. You open your mouth to speak, but a hot, arid wind greets you stealing your message, your resolve, before you’ve even had a chance to croak out half a sentence. That’s you. The voice of one calling in the wilderness. Screaming to the dunes. Telling your stories to no one.

And that’s when the folksy wisdom of Shepherd Book’s words really hits home. It doesn’t matter what you believe. If you believe you’ll eventual get published. Or if you believe you have a message that needs to be heard. Or that you’ll simply implode if you don’t find a way to get the stories out of your head and on to the page. Or even if you write just because you think it’s fun.

It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you believe it.

Something has to keep you writing. It’s best if your core motivation is a good thing. Something like love of the craft. But in dark moments, when you feel like you’re in the desert, cling to whatever you can. Just don’t stop writing. Find something to believe in enough that it prompts you to action and make that your mantra.

We all feel like we’re in the wilderness sometimes. Every writer gets that. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. When it does, just don’t stop writing. Find something to believe in, and believe.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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