I was reading this article on Forbes titled “Why You Shouldn’t Be a Writer.” The article got me thinking, and, maybe a bit defensive.
You shouldn’t write if you’re not called to it. Do you hear the siren song? Writer’s bear a burden. They must write. I do agree, to an extent, but human virtue tends to be a bit more prickly-by-appearance yet smooth-to-the-touch.
Consider that life itself can change priorities and attitudes about what can and won’t be done regarding a dream. A person may have to build a crib, install a car seat, and change diapers in the middle of the night. All the while knowing they could be writing if they just had time. Life does happen and can take us away from our passions.
Mental challenges can also hinder the creative process. Disabilities, diseases, and other cases of illness can dampen the creative spirit. For others, they choose to write through the pain and suffering. And that’s really the message. Take the time, make sacrifices, but write.
You were not a writer during those down times. I was there myself for quite a while. Am I back? Yes, I would say so. But to really know if it’s for real, we need to dig into ourselves, find that core desire, and see if it has any life in it or does it feel brittle, aged, and cracked?
There’s no “magic secret”; writing is like everything else; ten percent inspiration or talent, and ninety percent hard work. Persistence; keeping at it till you get there. As Agnes de Mille said, it means working every day—bored, tired, weary, or with a fever of a hundred and two.
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
My distance from fiction was largely due to time constraints and lack of discipline. For the past several years, I’ve been plugging away at articles that stifled my creativity. I wrote about insurance, student exams, US cities, Brazilian wood, armored cars, RC planes, dentists, restaurants, sofas, children’s bedroom furniture, and dozens of other topics. Each tap on the keyboard brought me one step closer to creative suicide. Think DFW’s brilliant story about the IRS auditor, Wiggle Room.
Of course, I had motive for going the article writing route. I needed to keep my lights on. My passion for writing wasn’t burning bright enough to light my house or filling enough to keep my belly full. But maybe a better writer, a Saul Bellow, I.B. Singer, or Stephen King, would have suffered by candlelight to get their story onto the page. And, maybe, I should learn something from the early writings of these authors. Many wrote in extreme poverty because the only thing that mattered was the story.
E.B. White handled his own mail and responded to all the inquiries from his fans. So too did Isaac Asimov, writing more than 10,000 letters to fans who wrote him over the years. Of course, responding to fans is still writing, so their exercises can be found as less of an excuse and more of a waypoint regarding their particular character.
In my case, I deal with the time constraints, but I also have self-doubt regarding my writing prowess. I’ve bottled it all though. My self-doubt looks strikingly like Coca-Cola. Each time I write, I’m dropping a Mentos into the mix. Who cares if I’m terrible at it. I’ll only ever know myself, if I get to creating more stories. And if I never become a “writer” rather than an “amateur author,” then so be it.