I know my writing about writing is usually very upbeat, but some days I cannot write for reasons that are a complicated blend of fatigue and the usual difficulties (time, place, forgotten notes — that kind of thing), which dissolve into a single, strong sense that the whole enterprise is futile. On those days, and today is one such day, I think about how what matters are the people in my life, many of whom I become disconnected from when I’m writing something. And so those are days when I don’t write, which is for the best. Because you probably don’t write well when you are exhausted by thoughts about how difficult it can be to get back into the story, and you know that many things are easier to do and that no one would really be upset if you stopped, and many people would, at some level, be relieved.
The way it works is that you are lucky if you find something you passionately love to do in your life, but you have no right to expect that this passion will be shared or nurtured or rewarded by anyone else. Now, no one in my life actively discourages my writing, and some people ( my husband being one ) are all about helping it along. Still, if it disappeared from our life, I don’t think anyone would experience any grief, which is only right, because the writing doesn’t belong to them. It happens to them, and it inconveniences them, and they deal with it because I love it and they love me. But it’s not theirs to lose. It’s mine and so the real loss would be to me.
Wondering how much of a loss it would be to stop doing something that is extraordinarily difficult sometimes, this morning, on my way in to work, I posed this question to my self: if you knew that you could have one of your heart’s desires, a heart’s desire that isn’t related to writing, would you agree to never write another word, so you could have that longed-for thing? It was hard to answer. I could not honestly say, as I often see people say, that I would die if I couldn’t write. Or I write because I HAVE TO.
Me? I sat there and imagined a heart’s desire, and laid it next to the way I feel when I write, and the stories I want to tell, and the uncertainty and difficulty of finding people to read what I write, and my fears about how good it is, and I wondered what life would be like if I just stopped in the middle of editing my novel, and never picked up the second one again and didn’t write any more stories, the ones about women who’re ridiculous, but so smart at the same time. I decided life would not be worth very much, although I’d have more time to spend with my family, and to sleep and hike, but it took me nearly an hour to come to that conclusion, and even then I wasn’t entirely sure I was right.
I say all this not because I need or want anyone’s reassurance – I have confidence enough for several writers and mostly I have good days, some even great, when I never think like this – but because on a day when I don’t have those things, I don’t write, and I think it’s important to note that writing well is not a simple thing, not in the least, and there are days when getting to the place where you can write what you want to write is not at all about finding the time, or the correct work space, or an agent, and that some days those things look remarkably easy compared to the difficulty of finding in yourself the necessary certainty that what you have to say matters at all, in comparison to how much it costs.