Is writing supposed to be fun?
Surely, it’s better to suffer. It will make our writing real - give it depth and integrity.
If we’re not going to suffer, we should at least work hard. We should be disciplined. We should think in terms of productivity. A writer’s not going to have a career to speak of unless she’s producing at least 1,000 words per day, right? If you get right down to it, it’s really a number crunching game. Or so the rumor goes.
Every writer has a personal tale about the hardships of writing. And we all know that writing is a lonely business. Martin Myers made this kind of alienation adorably quotable when he said: “First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.”
But this swallowing gulf is no laughing matter. As we chart our descent into the nether world of writing, honk if you know the story already.
Outside, the sun is shining and the robins are happily pulling up worms. Inside your snug little home, you’re staring into the abyss. The terror of facing that empty page is only surpassed by the numbness of your decomposing mind.
Just moments ago you were a lively specimen of resourceful humanity. Moments ago you were finding ways to speed through your chores and commitments in order to allow yourself some precious writing time. But, now that you’re seated in front of your favorite writing implements, you uncover the bleak truth. You have nothing to say. You are less inspired than the lowliest drone sorting microchips on the assembly line. You are empty. Soulless. Mere space dust inhabiting a warm body. You have no right to aspire to that auspicious title: Writer. Where did you come up with the nerve to even think it?
OK, so you’ve managed to convince your primal brain stem these negative messages are melodramatic. You are not empty. You are not a zombie from the twilight zone. While waiting in line at the drive-up bank, you even had “an idea” and now you intend to write it down. You’re no lightweight.
In fact, you have some guts and you plan to use them. How can you not be a writer? It’s in your blood. It permeates every atom of your mortal being. It reaches all the way to your higher self. Even your past lives were spent as royal scribes in Egypt or poets in Atlantis.
Triumphantly, you break those chains of oppression. You commit some tentative words to paper. One line follows another and “Voila!” you have a paragraph.
You resist the urge to reread what you’ve managed to get down. You forge ahead: One paragraph becomes two, and then three, and then five. If the dog doesn’t throw up again or the phone doesn’t ring, you may even write two pages today. You are doing it! You’re writing. You have defied the laws of emptiness. You are a god of creation.
Read Milli Thornton's INside story on writing.
Excerpted from Chapter One of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers by Milli Thornton, second edition, Copyright © 2003.