Why every writer needs a hammer…

About two years ago I realised that writing is a lot like my highly romanticised idea of sword smithing.

Genius, right? That explains everything. I know, I know… I amaze myself.

What…? No? You don’t see it? Fine. I’ll explain.

For me, writing starts when I uncover a nugget of… stuff. This can be a concept, scene, phrase… something. In my head, it’s a hard, slightly grubby little thing. Just like my chisel jawed Swordsmith may hew from a rock face.

What lies within? The 51st shade of grey or the one ring?

Now both of us need to purify the heck out of that little sucker. Heat it up. See what floats to the top, see what’s left when the heating is done.

Sometimes, it’s nothing. Just a flash, bad smell and tinged eyebrows all around.

But sometimes, there’s more.

That nugget is now an idea, but it’s a weak, brittle thing. Small. So, whilst it’s stll red hot, I mix in some other ideas. Alloy it all together. Add strength.

This is completely and totally how it looks when your favourite writers work… really.

In and out of the furnace it goes. Impurities are disposed of. Shape begins to form.

Now the fun starts…

It’s time to give it shape, let it become something. Here comes the hammer. The red hot idea is formed, folded and worked.

That’s right, the rhythmic banging sound is not the writer’s head on the desk after all…

Over and over it goes, from anvil to furnace and back again as I toil to make metal into something refined, solid and created.

Finally, the form and truth of the thing comes in to view. Now, at last, we have a draft. It’s not a pretty thing, it’s a crude, blunt thing. More likely to cause lasting damage if it falls on your foot than if you were hit with it.

So begins the hard work. Though my dashing smith is alrady covered in smuts of coal and dust, the worst is yet to come.

Editing. Or, in this analogy… polishing, sharpening and all that good stuff.

Day in and day out, we work. Working the blade to a fine shine and razors edge.

Carving in the ornate patterns and making space for gems.

With that “little” job complete, we’re in the home stretch.

On to pretty bit.

The final polishing, adding the hilt, making a pretty scabbard (the cover? See, this works…) and then, at last, it’s done.

My swordsmith gives the finished article an experiment slash and stab, just to make sure it works, sheaths it and sends it out into the world.

(Of course, I’ve missed out the bit where twelve more nugget have been unearth whilst the first was just being purified.)

And that, dear Reader, is why I keep a hammer and fire extinguisher by my laptop when working…

2 Replies to “Why every writer needs a hammer…”

  1. And here I thought the hammer was for threatening the laptop when it tells you it wants to do an update just as you’re sitting down to start … I love this description of unearthing ideas and shaping them into something worthwhile. And it definitely is backbreaking work at times!

    1. Ah yes, I can relate to the laptop issue… the updates do pick their time!
      Glad it resonated and I am not alone with the idea. 100% right though, it’s really backbreaking some days. Love it every day though.

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