“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” — George Orwell
Any writer worth their salt has probably asked themselves the above question or some variation on it at some point in their lives. Usually riffing on “Why am I still putting myself through this?”
And if you are, if you’re a writer, then you already know, you know the answer.
“Because I must.”
Because to not write is to not be alive. To not write is to not feel a whole person. It’s not because you’re overflowing with all these wonderful ideas you can’t wait to share with the world. It’s not even because you have something to say. It’s because for what you need to say, there’s no other way to express it. It’s because you have a need, a niggling, nagging compulsion to put pen to paper, to put fingers to keyboard and to express yourself in the only way you feel able.
All my words to the contrary, I am not a wordy man. Verbally, I struggle to put together a whole, coherent sentence. I barely hold up my end of the conversation in a one-on-one scenario, I can never think of anything to say. The majority of my personal interactions involve me laughing and agreeing with whatever the other person is saying while furiously trying to think of something interesting to say. If I speak any more than a handful of sentences I start to forget where I started and what I’ve already said. In other words, I’m rubbish at talking. I get nervous speaking out loud, or speaking up. I’m much more comfortable simply listening.
But writing – I’m not saying I’m necessarily any more coherent, but I’m better. I know what I have to say and I can sit down with pen and paper or electronic input device and write. Especially on my favourite topic. Me.
I like to write, and I think that maybe I have some marginal talent at it. At least, it was the only thing I was ever told I was any good at school. And for 30 or so years I’ve been trying to write. Not because I think anyone else might want to read it (although that would be nice) but simply because to not write is unthinkable. No matter how many times in my life I’ve laid down my pen, or how long I’ve spent away from it (and believe me, there’s been a lot of stretches) I always come back to it. Call it a compulsion, call it an obsession, but I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t have some kind of writing in my life.*
How about you? Why do you write? Heck, let’s throw it open, what drives you to do any creative things you do on a daily basis?
* I kind of felt like I should have written some grand, hyperbolic treatise on how the pen is the knife I cut myself with to relieve the pain and I bleed words onto the page…
But I’m not a 16 year old emo.