Story: What’s wrong, slappy? You look a little blue.
Me: I’m wondering if what I am doing is the right thing.
Story: In what particular, are we speaking of?
Me: We are speaking of writing. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my time. I work and work, write and write, and I don’t appear to be making any significant progress. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Maybe I’m not cut out for this.
Story: All right, it sounds like you’ve lost confidence in yourself. I have one question for you, though. Why are you doing this? Writing, I mean.
Me: Well, it’s certainly not the money. I could make more money digging ditches. The work would be easier, too, I think.
Story: Exactly. So there has to be an underlying reason you are doing this. Let’s face it, chief. There are a lot easier things you could be doing. Not to mention the incredible amount of time spent alone, having to force yourself to stay at home and write instead of going out with friends. But the question remains: Why are you doing this?
Me: Good question. I don’t like banging my head against a brick wall all the time. It hurts.
Story: If you ask a hundred writers how they go about writing, you will get a hundred different answers. There is no right way to write, no true process that trumps everything else. If someone tells you there is a magical key to success then you should immediately run in the other direction because I can promise you these people don’t know what the hell they are talking about. But if you ask a hundred writers why they write, and discount the idiotic and uninformed answers of “I want to be famous” or “I want to make a lot of money,” then I am willing to bet the majority of writers, real writers and not wannabes or armchair commandos, will answer along the same lines.
Me: I want to write because there is something inside me that compels me to do so. I’ve tried quitting before, and I can’t. I can’t quit. It’s like there are these words and stories inside me that demand to be told. I’m a voice for all these stories. They demand attention and I can’t ignore them.
Story: And that’s the reason most writers write. It’s a compulsion. They aren’t fooling themselves that this is easy or some sort of path to being famous. People who think that are the same people who buy magic beans and believe in castles in the sky. Writers, true writers, know what this is all about. It’s not about you or what you’re going through. It’s about the story that demands telling. That’s why you write. That’s why most writers write. When you come to terms with that, when you are able to accept that you are subordinate to the story, and so is everyone else in your life, then you will understand that you and every other writer throughout the history of the world has gone through this same process, and will go through it in the years and centuries to come.
Me: So what do I do?
Story: There’s only one thing you can do.
Me: I have to keep writing. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?
Story: You have no choice in the matter, not really. As a writer, you simply do not have the luxury to toss aside this compulsion and pretend it never existed, that it was never part of your life, that it never governed your every waking action and thought.That’s a luxury. Writing is not a luxury. It’s work. You want to be successful? Then keep writing. Keep banging your head against that wall no matter how long it takes. So what if you never get published? Why is that important? In what way is it important? The main thing is you are writing. That’s what gives you fire. That’s why you exist. A writer lives to write. A writer does NOT live to be published. It’s a nice sidelight, but that’s not the reason for a writer’s life.
Me: I am a writer. I am.
Story: Yes, you are. So quit your belly aching and stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re a writer. Start writing. That’s your main purpose in life. Live up to that and you will regain your confidence.
Me: Okay. I think you are right. But to start writing I have to find a new story. Where am I going to find that?
Story: Silly. I’m right here.