The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Paper menagerie

Rachael Conlin Levy

Can I admit to you a fear as I write my story? It’s that I will use up all my memories and imaginings as the story grows. I’m reaching into the recesses of memory. I’m opening writing notebooks I closed more than a year ago and finding words to use. The story doesn’t stall or bore, it delights me. But still, I worry. What if when I’m finished, I’ll be empty? What if I use up all the good stuff on this first story that’s bound to be small and flawed because of my inexperience? I don’t want to carry this fear in my head, so I’m stashing it here. I’m sorry to burden you, friend, with my insecurity.


Copied into my notebook, May 17, 2012:

If you hear a voice within you saying: You are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.

— Vincent van Gogh


4 responses to “Paper menagerie”

  1. You won’t. Great quote!

  2. anno says:

    I always dread that pause at the end of any creative activity. Am only now learning that breathing in is just as important as breathing out.

    Love that quote — and today, I needed to hear it!

  3. Andrea says:

    Every. Single. Time. I finish a story, I think, “That’s it. My very last idea. Ever.” But then another idea comes, magically like fairy dust, or reluctantly through brute force. Then I write it. Then I am out of ideas again. The writer’s life is never reassuring, as far as I can tell.

    Keep going. You will have more ideas. You have more material. More memories. Don’t worry about those later stories. All that matters is this story you’re working on now.

  4. Beth says:

    I was discussing with a friend recently the crippling ability of fear and its power to stop us dead in our tracks. I love your thought of moving ahead in spite of our fears. There is courage and strength found when we do so.
    Thank you for the reminder.
    PS. Andrea is so right about the fairy dust- the wonder of it all!

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