This post is part of the Creative Process series, in which I will whine, cry, and philosophize about my life as a fiction writer. In the worst case scenario, fellow struggling artists will be heartened by my constant failures. In the best case scenario, a best-selling novel just might be written.
Nobody ever chooses to be a writer. Sure, third-graders who read The Magic Tree House and The Boxcar Children, or even Bridge to Terabithia or The Giver (how intellectual of them!) may become enamored of books. They may even go as far as to pick out their pen name (Mark Twain or Avi?) and start penning stories of their own. They may accomplish quite a bit, such as a 100-page novel manuscript on multiple floppy disks. By high school, they may even win the district library’s short story contest and pocket a cool $250. However, they are not writers. How do I know? Because I was one of them, and I was not a writer.
Today, I am a writer. It is not glamorous, it is not particularly respected, and it is certainly not well-paid. Every day I coddle, bribe, and threaten myself until I produce a satisfactory 900 words. Some days it comes easily and I am pleased with my work. Most days it’s like excreting a brick and I spend the rest of the day convincing myself that I will not starve to death. I don’t write because it’s amusing, because it’s an excuse not to work a 9 to 5 job, or because it’s artsy-fartsy. I don’t write because I’m a narcissist who believes that my words are God’s gift to mankind and that I will influence modern culture for generations. I definitely don’t write to hear people sing my praises — there is no other profession that is as soul-crushingly lonely and self-esteem shattering.
I write because I have to. I write because if I don’t, I feel that a monster will eat away at me from the inside until I take a pen to paper and let him have his way with me. I write because if I don’t, I feel that I am drowning in the thoughts, sentiments, words that demand to exist. I write because if I don’t, I feel that I am failing some spiritual part of this universe I don’t quite understand. Because you see, my writing is not mine. The ideas that pour forth onto blank pages don’t come from me. If you told me to sit down and you proceeded to interview me about my creative process, I would tell you, “Something just comes to me. I don’t plan anything; I don’t create anything. I am merely the medium through which writing passes.”
You see, to be a writer is at once a gift and a curse. Either way, it is never a choice. Throughout a writer’s life, she will be tormented by the need to write and the process will be agonizing — it will claim a piece of her soul, a portion of her life, a bit of her innocence. However, once she has finished, she will briefly experience the most blissful, ethereal sensation in the world — the knowledge that you have done exactly what you’ve been put on this earth to do.
Do you consider yourself a writer? What does being a writer mean to you?