A few months ago, I looked at my shrink and said, “All I want to do is write. I don’t care if I ever make any money doing it. As long as I can write freely and later go back and read what I have written, I’ll be satisfied.”
On days like today, that sounds like a big pile of Pollyanna drivel. It’s 3:25pm. The deadline was 2pm. I’ve been sitting here for over five hours, manipulating 727 words of clichéd, passive voice crap. My head hurts. I want to delete everything and go lie down. I have no idea where this is going and I’m irritable as hell about it.
I expect to have days like this for the rest of my life. I am a writer.
I’ve written about writing more times than I can count, about how it’s “going in” to what feels like an actual place — a different type of consciousness, about how it’s a process that leads to new thoughts, about how I’ve been doing it “ever since I could shape the letters of the alphabet.”
I’ve got a cabinet in my bedroom filled with (filled and half filled) journals. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on writing classes and seminars. I keep dozens of letters and story drafts saved in binders and on obsolete discs. My worn out copy of “Letters to a Young Poet” has Post-it notes stuck to pages 18, 19 and 29. There’s a broken-spined dictionary within arm’s reach of my desk chair and an electronic one set to pop up with a quick dash of the cursor. I’ve got over 470 blog posts here and another handful back at Thirty Voices.
When I forget to bring paper, sometimes I’ll tear semi blank pages out of whatever book I’m reading and write on those. Napkins work also. I’ve written over newspaper headlines, in the margins of magazines, on brown paper bags. I’ll ask anyone for a pencil. I’ve offered to buy pens from strangers.
It’s not that my thoughts are so insightful or original that they must be preserved. It’s not even that I’ve got a message to communicate or a story to tell.
It’s not that at all.
Then what is it?
It’s as if having an experience is inhaling, and the only way to exhale is to write.