On Writing

“Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one.” Robert Byrne

Thank goodness I haven’t reached that point yet! Of course, my livelihood doesn’t entirely depend upon my selling my writing and I’m not altogether consumed for lengthy periods at a time by writing. My writing life is constantly interrupted by the needs of children and animals, conversations about insurance and home repairs, cooking and laundry and those things often seem more pressing than putting words on a page. Perhaps that is why my brain has evolved away from having the actual craft of writing be associated with getting the words down.

I do my most effective “writing” when I am completely and utterly alone, generally outside of my house and physically occupied. Taking the dog on long walks through the same boring neighborhood is incredibly fertile ground for my creative consciousness. On occasion, I can come up with some brilliant notions while standing in the shower. Driving for long distances by myself, while rare, is also a time where the other side of my brain can turn on. I suppose it’s because there is no physical way I could accomplish the tasks I am normally responsible for at home, but it is only when I am alone and otherwise busy that I can truly “drop in” to writing. Unfortunately, unless I have access to my computer shortly after my brain lets loose it’s most recent wave of creativity, it will most likely be lost in the shuffle when I re-enter my Mom/Wife World. Thankfully, I spent several years as a medical transcriptionist and am able to type upwards of 110 words per minute, and my children are fully accustomed to me dashing in the door, heading for my laptop and yelling, “Don’t talk to me! I have to get this down before it flies away!”

I know that everyone has their own methods and rituals for writing. I never would have expected mine to be as unorthodox as they are, given that for most of my life I was known as (and fully embracing of being known as) “anal retentive.” Writing schedules that are rigid simply make me feel claustrophobic. I obsess over the fact that I only have X minutes left to write before I have to go do something else and can’t get anything to leap that blockade in my brain. Or I find excuses why I couldn’t possibly work for those hours on this day and promise myself heartily that I’ll make it up to myself another time. This willy-nilly, take-it-as-it-comes and get-it-down-before-it-goes method has so far worked for me. I know that by letting those thoughts percolate in my brain until they simply can’t be held down anymore, they are leaping out of me with an enthusiasm that translates to the page. Fortunately, my children are old enough that I have the freedom to do that and, when I don’t, my iPhone has this nifty application on it that allows me to record voice memos so that at least I can spit the ideas out and hope to pick up the threads later.

Eve asked the other day why I chose to be a writer. She has heard all the stories of my past jobs – veterinarian assistant, medical assistant, surgical assistant, office manager, and patient advocate, to name a few – and wonders how I came to this. The only answer I had for her is this: “Honey, I don’t write because I have to or even because I necessarily want to (although I do). I write because I can’t not write.”

3 replies
  1. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    We don't choose it, do we? It chooses us. I'm not even sure we choose the kind of writers we are. Perhaps that's as much a part of the journey as the writing itself.

  2. Carrie Wilson Link
    Carrie Wilson Link says:

    Not enough has been made of this: "Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one." Robert Byrne

  3. Alicia D
    Alicia D says:

    okay, not that i at ALL consider myself a writer (only an aspiring/emerging one), i SO get the very last line: "I write because I can't not write."


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