I’ll tell you what it’s like for me. It is an obsession. It is an itch that never goes away, a constant refrain that never leaves me alone, not even for a moment.
You think I like writing? Not at all. I just can’t help myself. Words whisper themselves to me in my head and they won’t leave me alone until I sit down with my computer and write them out.
If that sounds like fun to you, you haven’t seen the kinds of things that force themselves out through me. Most of it is utter crap. 80% of it never sees the light of day. There are thirty drafts sitting in the “posts” folder of this blog that will never ever be published, and three times that many in a folder on my computer, and that’s only for this blog.
I wrote a book in six months and spent the next eleven fixing the crap I made, deleting a good third of it and replacing another third with new words.
Writing is painful. I cry a lot when I’m writing. I cry for my characters, for the things I make them do against my will. It is a terrible place to live, to be constantly punishing people you love and feeling that you have no choice but knowing that you do have a choice and yet choosing to keep hurting them. Sometimes I try to undo what I’ve done but I rarely succeed.
Writing is drudgery. It’s hours in front of the screen typing out words you know you will later delete but doing it because it’s the only way to get past the crap to the good stuff, and if you stop now you may never start again. And you can’t not write.
Writing is self-punishment. It’s self-doubt and insecurity and thinking “I’m completely hopeless. This is crap. Why am I doing this?”
Writing is vulnerability, it’s amphibious permeable skin, letting all of everything through to the soft reception of your beating heart.
Some days I wish I were a psychopath. Not a sadistic one, just one who does not feel the feelings of others. I want to close off my soft heart and feel only what I feel, completely unaffected by the hearts of others. This is an impossible dream. It is why I must be alone in the woods sometimes. Trees do not intrude their feelings upon me. Rather, they seem to absorb my emotions into themselves to evaporate into the atmosphere. They siphon off the excess and leave me at peace.
Writing means paying attention, listening, and feeling. Feeling hurts.
No. I do not like writing.
I like having written.
And I think maybe that’s where the compulsion comes from. It’s a hit of dopamine like no other, having written. It’s like I imagine a heroin addiction is. You know it’s going to be bad, you know that getting the resources together to get that next hit is going to be painful hard work. You don’t want to do it but it itches you until you can’t stand it and you do it because ultimately, in the end, there’s that amazing hit.
“I did that! It’s actually quite good! I am great! People like me! I matter!”
And for a while it is good. Until the itch begins again. The edge of the high wears off and you find yourself spiraling toward the circling singularity at the edge of the black hole of addiction and you… can’t… stop… yourself.
And at the center of that black hole is the fundamental belief that you’re not good enough as you are and so you must constantly prove yourself. You must be more in order to be worthy. And that is a problem, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great to feel sure, to accept oneself as whole, as complete, as ENOUGH?
Well, yeah. Except maybe then you wouldn’t be compelled to write. And that would be a problem.