I think it was Hemingway who said that writing is nothing but sitting down in front of a type writer and bleeding. I agree wholeheartedly. When I began writing this post, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to convey other than a feeling I couldn’t quite pinpoint. All I knew was that it was about forging and writing and pain.
The three go together. It’s so interesting that when you look at a mundane day-to-day task and you don’t think anything of it until you look closer and from there you discover a whole other world coming to life because of it. The thing itself becomes a door that opens and what’s behind it is nothing but endless vista.
You heat up metal to such an extend that it begins to glow. It’s not melting. Yet. But it gets so hot that it glows red. Then you can form it and shape it and make it into something new and beautiful. I’m an electrician by trade. In order for anything to happen, anything at all to happen in an electrical circuit, things have to heat up. The resistance of the very material the current that flows through generates heat. Electricity is heat.
Can you hear the metal scream? It’s a powerful scream, a life changing scream. It’s a scream that foreshadows change. It’s like when you bench press and you’re at the eleventh one and you don’t think you have it in you to get this thing up once more but you want to and you start to scream and eventually you push it all the way up.
Forging and pain and writing go hand in hand. At least for me. Take the Hemingway quote where writing is nothing but sitting in front of a type writer and bleeding. We think pain is bad. We think it’s something to be avoided. We think we need to distract ourselves from it. For this post, I’m talking about emotional pain, the pain that is inside, that turns your stomach upside down and makes us hurt even though we don’t know where. Our heart, our mind, our soul. We try to avoid it but that would be like the iron rod that wants to stay at room temperature. Sure it’s more comfortable that way. But is it better?
Some spiritual practices tell us to stay with it for a while, to let it rise up from the depth and come to the surface so it can be dealt with.
I’ve been through several phases in my life that were painful. The first one (only in hind sight do I see the pain there) was when my parents separated when I was eleven. It was excruciating. Then there were some break ups and heart breaks and then there was a phase where the pain was not connected to anything other than the inevitable pain that comes with major internal change.
I was the metal that lay in the forge waiting to reach a temperature high enough to become something new, something that was still the original material but now closer to the form it was meant to take on. The new is already present in the original, it’s all there waiting for heat and pain to get it to a point where it can be molded into something closer to what it was intended to be.
I very rarely can write a story without tapping into that experience – the pain that is the heat that preludes the change for the better. It’s the moment when it’s the hardest to continue, when the storm is the strongest and the night the darkest. That’s when the metal reaches the temperature that allows it to be forged. That’s when beautiful, intricate, stunning forms take shape. Like a song. Like a painting. Like a story.
In The Traveler, a twelve-year-old girl is devastated by the death of her father, a master blacksmith. From him, she learned how to work with metal. From him, she learned how to create beautiful things out of cold, dead objects. Now, after his death, he challenges her one more time to reach beyond what she thinks she can do and create something that seems entirely impossible.