Sunday, August 06, 2006

Punching My Card

There are people who say things along the lines of, “If I couldn’t write, I don’t know what I’d do”, or “If I couldn’t write, they’d have to lock me up.” I admire these people and their deep-seated, seemingly DNA encoded need to write. I am also not one of them. But I like to think that I’m a writer nonetheless.

I find that I often prefer “having written” to actually writing. In other words, I like to look back over what I just spilled onto the page, rather than the actual spilling itself. Yes, I have my moments of “Wow! This is really flowing. This is awesome. What a creative rush!” The other 99% of the time, though, a good part of me would rather be snaking out the kitchen drain than sitting at the computer. This is because – no surprise to us Wyrdos – writing is work.

I hate work.

I have done more things than I can think of to avoid writing: mow the lawn, sort laundry, organize the garage, repair furniture, clean out the fridge, call my mother, call my mother-in-law (!), dust, make new play lists on my iPod, read really boring history (there is non-boring history, btw), read the gardening section of the newspaper (I don’t garden), pay bills, and write this piece, among others. Likewise, I have resorted to all of the above as an excuse to get up from the computer and not write. Not to brag, but I’m damn good at not writing.

And yet, I still sit my rear end down at my desk and try to wrestle words and ideas into the semblance of an engaging story. Why, given everything I go through to not write, do I still bother?

Because, for good or ill, it’s what I do. Could I live without it? Yes. I’ve taken a couple of year-plus hiatuses in the past for various reasons, and survived just fine without putting proverbial pen to paper. No wasting away, no swooning, no voices in the middle of the night begging to be given life. Life went on.

Except I discovered I wasn’t a very happy person (or very pleasant to be around, according to my wife :) when I wasn’t writing. It turns out I have stories I want to share. Characters I want other people to find fascinating, or irritating, or just plain cool. I have plots to twist and cliffs to hang the reader off of, if only to make them read “just one more chapter” before turning out the light. There are fight scenes to lay out, dammit!

The problem is, to do all of this, I have to write.

And that’s where the Wyrdsmiths come in. The great thing about this writer’s group is that they know. They can be comforting and understanding and nod their heads when you don’t hand out on your scheduled turn, but if you do it too often, they’ll call you on it. And don’t think you’re off the hook when you’re finished, either. People ask about revisions, about what markets you’re looking at, about how something like or unlike yours may or may not be selling. And they tell you what they think of your work, up front, to your face, and always with the intention of making it better.

They keep you honest.

And, just as importantly, they keep plugging away on their own stuff, making your excuses, procrastinations and rationales seem like so many, well, excuses, procrastinations and rationales. Despite kids, lives, jobs, tragedies and triumphs, they somehow manage to keep putting out the pages. They remind me that it can be done, no matter what. They set an example.

So, while I still may hate to work, and I still may concoct the occasional distraction to keep me from putting words on a screen, I keep coming back and punching my writer’s time card anyhow. Not because I need to, but because I want to.

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