by J.D. Rhoades
Something Alex said in her post on Saturday set me to thinking. “I’m one of those authors,” she
wrote, “who really doesn’t like writing all that much. It has its moments,
sure, I’ll give you that, but I don’t skip to my computer every morning with a
smile on my face and a song in my heart.”
I read that, and I went, “yeah.”
Because I often feel the same way.
A commenter expressed some dismay
at Alex’s sentiment: “it’s tough to read that you really don’t like writing
that much when I would give my left toe to be able to write more!” And,
ironically, I also said ‘yeah,” to that. I’d love to have the time to write
more, and then actually do it. Even though it’s sometimes almost physically
Not everyone has this problem, or has sympathy for
it. Garrison Keillor once amusingly if unkindly wrote that, if you think writing
“Get a job. Try teaching eighth-grade English, five classes a day, 35
kids in a class, from September to June, and then tell us about suffering.
The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing
are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full
of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or
planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.
Keillor’s right, of course.
Writing’s easier than, say, than working with hot tar on a sunny summer day in Florida. Or teaching eight grade English for that matter. But there are still days I have to drag myself to it.
So why do it? And how to explain the
contradiction of writing being both exquisitely painful and joyful at the same
Well, as I so often answer when
asked about motivation and why I write, “You can’t rule out mental illness.”
But that’s a flippant answer to a serious question, so I’ll try a little harder
I once read an interview with a writer (and I wish I could remember who) who
compared the act of writing to hunting butterflies. You’re out there, and it’s
a lovely day. You’re surrounded by all this beauty, and you’re amazed at some
of the things you see flying around.
But eventually, you have to chase
one of the little buggers down with the net. And when you do, you pop it in the
killing jar and pin it to a board. Once it’s there, it’s still pretty. People
may come and look at it, and ooh and ahh, and sometimes you may get kudos for a
new and previously undiscovered butterfly.
But it’s never the same as when it
was fluttering free.
And that’s how writing feels to me
sometimes. The things I see and hear in my head sometimes get my blood racing
and make my eyes light up. But then I have to sit down at the computer and pin
the lideas onto the board, or in my case, the page. And it’s never as
good as it was in my mind. At least to me.
Oh, it’s getting better. I’m
getting more proficient, I hope, at getting the words to match what’s in my
imagination. And that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back to the keyboard.
The other is, if I don’t hunt them down and catch them, these damn butterflies fluttering around in my head are going to make me nuts.
Best wishes for the New Year to you all…