Here’s the thing: I don’t really like to write.
This isn’t what I’m supposed to talk about; it isn’t what writers are supposed to write about. We’re supposed to write about how we have a passion for the craft, a burning zest that flows out of us and spills onto the page like lava.
We’re supposed to be like the girl in the first creative writing workshop I ever took—a sophomore-level class in a hundred-year-old building where the afternoon light lit up the dust motes as they floated by the windows—who said, without a hint of pretention or irony, “I have to eat. I have to breathe. I have to write.”
Maybe she really meant it. Maybe she was just trying to impress the professor (Padgett Powell, who definitely didn’t look impressed). Regardless, her words embodied the spirit of what writing is supposed to be: a labor of love.
Another professor once told me that he had to “steal time to write,” and he said it in a near whisper, as if he was talking about some illicit affair. Writing was the mistress he pined for when he drove his kids to soccer practice, the dirty little secret that waited behind a glowing computer monitor as his wife slept beside him.
I want to feel what they feel: the thrill that comes with creating art. I want my words to pulse with a terrible truth, to cut to the core of our being with sentences as hard as diamonds. I want what J.M. Coetzee describes in his memoir, Boyhood: I want my words to “spread across the page out of control, like spilt ink. Like spilt ink, like shadows racing across the face of still water, like lightning crackling across the sky.” I want, I want, I want.
But I don’t really like to write.
What I like to do: I like to cook and eat. I like exercising, working in the yard, fixing up the house. Sleeping and having sex and watching movies. All of these things I prefer to writing. I could live out my life doing these things and be content. Since I don’t really like to write, I often think I ought to just stop. Put down the pen. Move on. It’s easy. It’s over.