Very recently, I was featured in one of Sarah Selecky’s student spotlights. (Sarah is a Giller-nominated writer, and has been a big inspiration in my own writing.) In the spotlight, I talk about why I write, but I wanted to expand a bit more on that here.
I am a practical, pragmatic person. I like being able to explain why I do things without people (particularly my judgemental inner-critic) looking at me like I am a crazy person. I may make non-standard decisions, but there are reasons behind them.
Writing, on the other hand, is about the least pragmatic thing a person can do.
First of all, writing takes up a lot of time. I don’t know many people with tons of spare time just lying around, ready to be squandered. And writing is a lot of work–deceptively so. Most people think they learned to write elementary school, so the process of looking at your own writing, critiquing, trying to deciding if your character really eats cheese and if so, is he a cheddar person or more of a truffle-infused brie–well, that kind of struggle brings out the “Are you crazy?” look. And, let’s face it, despite examples of fame and fortune, anyone who writes knows that this is the exception more than the rule.
So here you are, doing this difficult thing that takes up lots of time, and energy, which most people probably don’t value, and you get caught in crazy mental debates over the personality-implications of cheese. Practical? Pragmatic? No.
Why do it?
Whether you realize it or not, you do it because you are meant to. You keep coming back to this crazy thing that sucks up your time and your energy because something in you needs to, wants to, is compelled to–choose any verb you like–but ultimately, you are meant to do this. You would not keep going back if you weren’t. Whether you attach a spiritual connotation to this or not, writing is something you have to do, for yourself.
Can’t quite admit that to yourself? That’s okay. One thing just about every writer on earth has are doubts. But trust me on this one–if this is something you keep going back to do, no matter how impractical, how time-consuming, how frustrating–you are meant to do this.
Once you admit that to yourself, it’s easier to make the time to write. It’s easier, when plagued with self-doubt, to tell yourself, “Doubts, shut it. I gotta do this, no matter what you say.” It’s easier, when you get that crazy look, to remind yourself that you are a lucky person who knows what you are supposed to do.
Now (pragmatism again), that you are meant to do this doesn’t meant you are destined to be rich and famous and critically acclaimed. Achieving conventional markers of success in writing are a combination of craft, persistence and luck. But that’s okay. You are a lucky person who knows (beneath all the self-doubt) what you are meant to do and what makes you feel most connected to your self. That’s pretty priceless.
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