I want to write about the magic of writing because it’s something I always forget. When I don’t have a single idea in my head and I’d do anything but sit down and write, because I’m sure that I can’t do it again, no matter how many times I’ve done it before; when I’m crawling through a first draft that doesn’t want to come to life, and it’s pure torture to put even a few hundred new words on the page; when I reread what I’ve written and think it’s pure dreck, not a publishable sentence in it; when I’ve finished a project and think, no matter how good the manuscript is, “Thank goodness! It’s done! I don’t have to do that any more!”—those are the times when I need to remember what magic there is in writing and how absolutely wonderful it feels when it’s going well.
I am not alone in this. I’ve heard many writers admit to going through all of this, whether they’re trying to break in or have a long string of bestsellers behind them: the “I can’t,” the “this is torture,” the “this is dreck,” the “thank goodness it’s over”—almost every writer has been there at some time, if not perennially.
But I also know that other writers hear a character’s distinctive voice in their heads, saying things that are unexpected and far more clever or moving than the author had imagined. They know that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night—or lying in bed before or after sleeping—with an idea knocking on their brain so insistently that they must get up and write it down. I’ve had it happen while driving, swimming in the ocean, running, in the shower, and in this too, I’m not alone. And most of all, we writers experience the joy of those moments when it comes pouring out of us, so that our fingers race across the keyboard and we forget to get up and stretch or eat a meal, order our loved ones to go away, and marvel, when we read over the day’s work, at the miracle of what we have created, breathing such life into our imaginings that others will experience them as real.
All writers have some aspect of the creative process that we never stop struggling with. And we get to know our strengths as well. Here’s what I’m proud of. It seems like magic that I have somehow created characters who have taken on a life of their own. Each has his or her own distinctive voice. They have authentic feelings, connect profoundly with each other, and make readers laugh and cry. So far, I’ve brought half a dozen of them to life: Bruce, Barbara, and Jimmy in my Death Will series; Diego, the young marrano sailor with Columbus in my stories “The Green Cross” and “Navidad”; and two readers haven’t met yet. One of these is Diego’s sister Rachel, with whom I’ve fallen in love myself, she’s so full of enthusiasm, wit, and passion. The other is Amy Greenstein, aka Emerald Love, a nice Jewish girl who’s a rising country music star and a shapeshifter. Actually, I love all these characters, and when I contemplate how very real they are, I realize I’ve been given the gift of writer’s magic.