A Writer’s Confession: Kvothe’s Ballad

a writer's confession

The following is a confession I wrote to myself some Easters ago after a session of reading, that I realize I’d never shared with this blog. It’s word for word as I wrote it then, so make of it what you will:

Today time stopped for me. I’d been wondering if it ever would again.

It’s that feeling when a scene in a book works beyond working, when you don’t just lose track of time, you regain enough awareness to become afraid that something will interrupt you and end the one perfect chance you’ll have to find out what comes next all in one sitting. When you hold your hand over the page to stop your eyes from moving down and killing the order of things. When you remember why you read.

The book was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss; the scene was the culmination of fifty pages’ planning—or many more, depending on how far back you want to follow the threads—when our hero Kvothe had brought himself onto a stage with everything from keeping fed to music’s passion to a deadly rivalry to his first glimpse of true love all joining in what happens during his performance… But there I was, lying in bed not so long from having woken up, as my whole level of consciousness shifted yet again. And yes, this was Easter Sunday when I read it all.

I guess nobody has these moments very often, not in their full degree. But I’m a harder audience than most, because when I’m not scheduling my day strictly by which combination of stories I read and watch, I’m watering my palate down by filling in hours with whatever half-satisfying yarn I can grab from the library or the cable menu. The moments when I’m not just satisfied but enthralled are years apart, the kind of years when you know all along another moment may never happen in your lifetime.

But for me it’s more.

I say writing isn’t my life, it’s what I chose instead of even having a life. And yet here I’ve gone so many years reinventing the wheel with my questions on what genres mean… well, maybe I’ve invented a hovercraft, but I still spend all my time going in circles instead of making forays into one tale or another. Where’s the line between craft and cowardice, and how many years behind me did I leave it?

Or does it even stop with writing, is it the whole way Kvothe lived on the edge of possibilities, and my wondering if I can be true to anything if I don’t try to wrestle the same power out of every day? Waste, waste, so much waste…

Does it mean I stop making charts of how to plot and start figuring how to actually gather the ideas? or that I go through my weeks showing my scribblings to more people, anything to commit myself to putting one word after the next, or take the one or two non-writing things I most enjoy and cut them out of my life as the price of dedication? Or turn the other way and look for real adventure in every flesh-and-blood person I talk to, to build the other set of muscles about truths—or just to honor what I say I’ve come to see?

Sadly, I know what it probably means, and so does everyone else. Just another chance to leap to my emotional feet and begin the journey off the beaten track, only to tire and turn back again. Not even out of fear of the shadows ahead, or doubt that there are treasures to be found within them, but just too tired to try. No, too used to turning back to even have a chance to tire. That’s what we all do, even most of the writers who try to point the way beyond… We turn back. And I’ve done it more than anyone, writing the same thing or the same reasons not to write, and nothing’s changed that.

But what if…

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