When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.
When Preston Sturges said (or wrote) that, he said (or wrote) the truth lurking in the heart of every writer. You can’t stop. Not for love or money or lack of money. Because writing is woven right into the fabric of who you are. It’s part of your life force.
Sure, it sounds melodramatic. The truth often does.
And just for the record, this idea is hardly a DiSanto original.
R. A. Salvatore said, “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.”
Maya Angelou reckons, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
William Carlos Williams decided, “… all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” Granted, that’s a bit stronger than L.M. Montgomery’s, “You have the itch for writing born in you. It’s quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?” But you get my point … our point.
Be you writer, sculptor, songwriter, or playwright, the force is with you. You were born itchy. It’s either scratch or go crazy. And you might as well face it now, you’ll probably be scratching until the day you die. Possibly beyond. Who knows?
And listen. Muse Mosquito doesn’t care if you’re tired or discouraged or obscure or old. She doesn’t cut you a break because of the unpublished manuscripts lined up like soldiers on the closet shelf, the paintings in the attic, or the unheralded poems languishing in the bottom drawer of your desk. She just keeps at you.
On those metallic-gray days, days fogged with a sense of futility, you would very much like to strangle the harpy. You can’t resist her henpecks—at least, not for long, and not without risk to your already questionable sanity—but you can’t see the point in giving in when the return on investment seems somewhere south of nonexistent.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I go over it on those Saturdays when I would like to play outside but trade a bucolic frolic for a chance to write for more than half an hour at a shot. I revisit the question every time I submit to the next agent on the list. I finally decided Anne Lamott is right: You give into the never-ending urge, because when you write or paint or do whatever creative thing you do, you’re really alive. All-out alive in a way you couldn’t be otherwise.
And how many people can say they’ve lived like that?