Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thought Devices, Survival, and Romance (the Myth of)

I was having a chat to one of my (many) writer friends, who shared with me the following assumption as spouted by a non-creative person;

"Wow, to write every day you must really love writing!"

Which, upon hearing, gave me pause.

As another writer friend (there are so many of you, you're like rabbits!) noted, there is a tendency for non-creative types to romanticise it all. Which is probably true, but in this instance, beside the point.

It made me wonder, if I do not love writing, then how do I feel about it? It does not ask why I write, although the answer relies upon that question as well.

Love is not at all the right word. It is not incorrect, so much as inaccurate. The relation does not apply, like describing the taste of sausage as 'firetruck'. There are times I do love writing, but they're not often, and generally isolated incidents. Writing itself, I do not love.

I don't hate it either. Even when I'm sunk in revision rage. Even when I'm uninspired and don't know what I'm doing. Even when it takes me to a place I don't want to go. Even when I know all I've produced is drek and slurry and dessicated story abortions. Hate is merely the flip side of love, and as applicable as 'firetruck'.

Which sees me end up back at that eternal question: why do I write? Some people like chasing down that answer. I don't. I don't need to know why, because the why is entirely irrelevant. I have no great goals for my writing. There was a time I aimed at contracts with major publishing houses and awards, but those targets have long been discarded. I have to admit, once I've finished writing a story to my satisfaction, I lose interest in it entirely. What happens afterward, whether it be published or not, is not a process I have much emotion or ambition invested in. Publishing successes are pleasing, publishing failures are a pity, but they're only minor after shocks following in the wake of the mindquake the actual writing caused.

Another writing friend, after mulling over the question of why we write if we do not, in fact, love it, mused that it was almost an obsessive compulsive act, which I guess could be true of some writers. What really resonated with me, however, was the comment that writing made them feel like a better, more functional, person.

Writing makes me not want to kill myself quite so much.

Which is melodramatic to say the least.

But true.

I have never not written. Others may talk of when they started and how long they've been writing for. I never started. I simply never stopped. Writing has always been a part of my life, so integral to my existence that I frequently forget it is there, that it is something I should perhaps mention, that other people don't write.

As a result, I don't think my mind knows how to function in any other manner. It is conditioned to seek the story in all things, hardwired to put information in an order that makes the most narrative sense, programmed to put words beside other words and seek the right place to put the right beat to have the greatest impact.

It is not limited to fiction. I have decades of diaries and journals. I still keep a private diary, and in it are terrible, shameful things, all the things I could not say and so had no choice but to write out of my system. I'm still writing things out. I will never stop draining myself through words, because to stop would be to suffocate, and to suffocate would be to die.

Even writing such blog posts as this, the mere act of constructing sentences to form paragraphs to say what I mean, there is succor in this process. There is a temporary relief to be gained in occupying myself with seeking a precision of emotion, a clarity of purpose, a duality of meaning, an accuracy of structure, in these sentences. I can immerse myself in writing as with no other task. There is some small sanctuary to be found in the process, a retreating of all the voices that would swamp me, because I have control of this voice. Of my voice.

Writing is, I suppose, not something I choose to do, no more than I choose to have a forehead. It simply is.

Thus, I have come to the following conclusions:

Why I Write: N/A
How I Feel About Writing: Firetruck

For the record, I have no issue with my forehead either.


  1. Wait-

    Writing is breathing. For the mind.

    Exactly and precisely.

    When I'm not writing, I feel like I'm going to explode.

    When I am writing, I don't even notice.

    Yes. Exactly. Perfect. That whole long post I just wrote? Don't read it. Waste of time.

  2. Also, today I wrote "who cut the cheese?" and got the giggles.

    Survival is high fucking art, fuckers.

  3. TESSA.


  4. Anonymous31/5/09 22:08

    This is a great post and I think I'm going to have to quote the firetruck bit at the end.

    I go long periods of time where I get so terrified of writing that I can't do it, and yet I'm still feeling the "going to explode" sensation from not writing. Basically I am a lunatic.

  5. excellent post! ...and your comments at the end are the icing on the cake. classic. i can sort of understand the pains of this post, i've never been able to describe why i write...

  6. Anonymous1/6/09 01:22

    Writing is masturbation of the imagination. Sometimes it culminates in orgasm. Sometimes not.

  7. Anonymous1/6/09 01:24

    The next time I masturbate I'm going to scream "Firetruck!"


  8. Writing is like riding a bicycle. It's beautiful. And if you asking yourself too much about it, you will lost your point or get fall.


  9. Hey Laurie, I went through a long period like that. I think I was still too focused on what other people were going to think of it. Got too distracted by the what ifs ahead, instead of the real reason I was doing it. Keep at it, eventually the terror gets bored and wanders off.

    Thanks Luke! Have to admit, generally I'm not that interested in why others write, either. Why people who hate writing keep on writing, though, that's an interesting question.

    I shoot down that metaphor, Ennis. Masturbation is about filling a desire, and seeking pleasure. With this particular argument, writing does neither. Therefore, your opinion is firetruck.

    Very true, Dragan. Better not to become to caught up in all the peripherals of writing, and just write.

  10. Anonymous3/6/09 03:14

    It's only Firetruck to _you_. To me it's Fireworks. Sometimes. Sometimes it's wet fireworks.

    Wait? What?