You Are Not Crazy And Writing Is Not A Compulsion

You Are Not Crazy And Writing Is Not A Compulsion

Yes! Finally, the voice of reason comes calling to us from out of the wilderness. Going against so much the prevailing “wisdom” you’ll find in many books and blogs on writing, Kriscinda Lee Everitt writes:

How many times have you been reading something about writing—more often, I think, in short essays and articles than in the longer formats—and you’ve come across this basic premise? “You’re not a writer unless writing is as vital to you as breathing.” “You’re not a writer unless you’d sooner go without food and sunlight than a pen and paper.” [….] They make it sound like one might break down bodily and mentally if, for some reason, they were kept from writing. And really, if that’s the case, I suggest therapy.

Or, writers are really, very prone to exaggeration.

I’m guessing its the latter.

oh, man, am I glad to hear someone say this. I know exactly what she’s talking about– I’ve encountered this same idea again and again.

[…] I think it perpetuates a myth about who and what a “writer” is that is damaging to aspiring writers. And not even aspiring writers—also writers who’ve been writing for years, but they do so, not because they are psychotic about it, but because they only enjoy it. They only do it because it’s something they love to do and they’re good at it. But, with the way some writers insist that if you’re not willing to, say, kill to be able to write, you’re not a writer, these non-psycho writers will always question whether or not they are Writers. Capital W. For realsies Writers. And that’s just a crappy feeling to have, particularly when, as reasonable, rational, thinking adults, we can pretty much guess that these “real,” borderline insane writers are really just acting like they might just swoon if someone locked them out of their studio for five minutes.

— I’m Calling For An End To The Pathological Writer Myth

She’s exactly right. If you Google around for a few minutes, you can find any number of quotes on the same basic theme from any number of famous and established writers, and you could come to the same conclusion that I always feared: maybe they’re right, maybe there is something to this, maybe if I don’t feel an absolute bone-deep need to write then I don’t have what it takes to be a writer. After all, they’re the ones who actually are successful at this, and have some authority to speak on it; so what do I know?

Well, let me answer that question, because after years of agonizing over it, what I do know is this: what it takes to be a writer is the ability to write and the willingness to put in the hard work to do it. That willingness doesn’t have to stem from some mad romantic driven need. It only takes the same level of commitment and drive it takes to be successful at anything.

I want to write. I like writing. I’m good at it. All of that is more than enough.

If I come to this realization sooner, if I had put aside this dangerous and poisonous idea that just because some nights I might rather go to a movie or go out dancing than put words down on paper then I’m not a bona fide real writer, I would’ve started pursuing writing as a serious vocation a lot sooner. I’m talking at least ten years sooner. That’s how long this particular haunting fear has been dogging my footsteps.

If you’ve believed this yourself, and that’s kept you from thinking you could ever really be a writer — forget that nonsense, put it out of your head, and get to work. If you’ve actually been spreading this garbage, then seriously, knock it off. It doesn’t make you special, it doesn’t make you clever, all it means is that you want to be able to claim the title of Real Writer for yourself and discourage anyone else. It’s a big enough sandbox, kids. Let other people build their own castles, in their own way.