Thursday, January 21, 2010

I am feeling overwhelmed by everything in my life that doesn't involve writing. I truly don't know how other people manage to have real jobs; I can barely manage half a job. At the moment I have just finished a small editing project and am beginning a large one; I have three days of Beloit Poetry Journal meetings this weekend; I need to make bread and stew so that we have something to eat after I finish my popcorn stint at the school basketball game; I need to drive 15 miles to the bank; I need to renew the dog licenses; I need to read and write and read and write and read and write. I'll probably manage to read. But writing is always last.

Frequently I come across "helpful" advice telling me to drop everything in my life and just write. I've come to the conclusion, however, that such advice is for people who aren't really writers. For me, writing is more like drinking too much or eating all the leftover Halloween candy: strangely compelling and life-sucking. I have to forcibly hold it down and choke it. Otherwise, nothing else will get done. Nothing.

I'm only being a little bit ironic here. I guess what I'm saying is that I can see why great writers have tended to destroy their marriages and desert their children. There's a line of obsession that's too easy to cross. If you don't cross it, you think: "I won't be great." And if you do cross it, you think: "I ruin everyone I touch."


MB said...

People never understood why I left archaeology when my kids were born - couldn't I just write while the babies were napping? I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been long before CPS was called in, only to find starving, dirty kids living in squalor while I typed away oblivious to all...

Fortunately, I don't have the same problem writing about law.

charlotte gordon said...

Wow. we are twins. The dog licenses tip the balance for me. Sometimes I feel like writing ruins my life. I can't just wait in line at the bank like other people, or go "do errands" -- I always have this pressing feeling that I NEED to work. Need to. I wouldn't give it up, but it is hard to live with sometimes. Like that cloud that follows pigpen around. Because of course I am just like other people and have to wait in line at banks. And yet. .
I feel enormous comraderie. As usual. When it comes to you, though, this is why I do love your work. You throw all of this bread and stew into it. The Not writing. the popcorn. THe drive to the bank. And those licenses.

Sheila Byrne said...

there is a general opinion among non-writers that writing is somehow less important than, say, renewing dog licences, making stew or having clean underwear. That writing, somehow, is frittering away valuable time, and is something everyone *could* do, if they wanted, like playing baseball or maybe video game baseball.

And I agree with Charlotte, keep throwing the stew and Not Writing in there.You're giving us something to eat.