When it comes right down to it, I don’t understand writers at all. I realized that shortly after I finished writing for the day, which, I suppose, only goes to prove my point: Writers don’t make sense.
I’m not sure who Gene Fowler is or was, but he once said, “Writing is easy. You simply stare at a blank piece of paper until tiny drops of blood form on your forehead.” Yeah. That’s about right. So why do we love it? Why do we feel only half alive when we’re not doing it? Tell me how that makes sense. Anybody?
I picked up a book today: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Read a page. Got scared and closed the book. I’m not sure I’m ready to read what she has to say about my art. She doesn’t leave a writer any wiggle room. Don’t believe me? Look at this:
You must demolish the work and start over. You can save some of the sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now.
If that isn’t the sound of rubber meeting road, I don’t know what is.
So explain it to me again: Why do I love this?
An Old Testament prophet once said, “God talked me into this job, but it wasn’t working out the way I expected, so I decided to quit. I just wouldn’t do it anymore. Except when I stopped, the words smoldered inside me like a fire in my bones. The pressure was unbearable. Holding back wore me out.”
Or words to that effect.
Sort of reminds me of that old song about how fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly.
Conclusion? Writers gotta write. No matter how miserable it sometimes makes us.
You know, come to think of it, life’s probably the same for everybody. I mean, if you’re a doctor, you’re probably not fulfilled unless you’re doctoring. If you’re a teacher, you’ve gotta teach. A mom, you’ve can’t help taking care of your kids, even when they think they don’t need it anymore. (But what do they know, right?) Nobody promised you the job you were created to do, the one you love and long to do, would always be easy or pleasant.
This is not the mystical, all-comforting, deeply gratifying explanation I hoped for.
But I reckon it will have to do.