I often hear people talk about how hard it is to write. The pain of putting pen to paper is real. You may be telling stories, but there is a piece of you in those words. The act of writing is sacred and scary.
I always tell myself, “It’s not the number of words, it’s the words you use.” The words confound but still beckon. You know what you want to write, but putting down that first word, sentence, paragraph, the page is more difficult than it sounds. The magic of writing requires special alchemy.
It isn’t as simple as ‘just write’. I have those moments where ‘just write’ seems a high hurdle. So I write one word and I make it the best word. The best word will need companions, so I write the best sentence. That may be the end of it for the day. One sentence, but it was the best sentence I had.
When the magic comes, I know and appreciate it. The words float through your head. Conversations come and go. The pages fill up and you are writing. The best words are the ones that come unbidden. You become a conduit for your protagonist’s story.
Some people hate writing but love telling stories. Dorothy Parker famously said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” I don’t know if I feel the same. I love writing. I may not be good at it, but I still love the act of creation with words. Hopefully the best words.
I love writing because deep down, it is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. The years of corporate drudgery and the resulting addiction pushed it deep down inside of me. So deep, I forgot about it.
My creative energies were focused on something different. Programming is like writing, if more rigid. It was that act of creation that subsumed the words. In code, I wrote masterpieces of clever code. I was given the words to use and I used them as best I could.
I have no regrets about that life, even if I was just a small cog in a behemoth of commerce. It was a good life and I did cool things.
I do have one regret. The years of opiate addiction suppressed not just my urge to write, but everything else. I call them my wasted years. Out of my mind and flirting with overdose every night, my life had no value. My quality of life wasn’t important, because I had no value.
Those years are one big jumble, a place distant from this earth was about feeling good and full of self-loathing lived together. Breaking free was my only goal. Writing every day was the furthest thing from my mind.
Then a weird thing happened. I was two weeks clean and I started writing. I haven’t stopped. Once I completed that first (bad) novel, I had changed. I had become a writer. I often wonder if writing saved me. I figured out how to put words down, in order, that formed some sort of story.
Do I hate writing? Let me quote Thomas Mann, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” It is more difficult, but it isn’t hard. Words have weight and writers worry about that. Words are the building blocks of what we want to say, but can’t say out loud.
It isn’t writer’s block. It isn’t hate. It’s that you have too many words. They all dance before you, waiting for you to pick one. Just pick the right word. The best word. Who knows what will happen next.