I don’t have to follow a plan, nor hold to anyone’s schedule but my own, or punch a time-clock.
Some days, I wish I had to.
Not because I want that life, but there are days when a pleasant diversion from my main job might be comic relief, a change of perspective, and it would give me a respite day away from my main job.
My main job?
The same job everyone who fancies themselves a writer – each day’s labor starts with a blank page and ends with something worth reading, worth savoring, worth using as a stimulus for discussion or debate, something worth putting in the hall on a wall, or publishing somewhere everywhere can read it.
Sometimes that’s an easy job.
Some days, excruciating.
Yes, coming to work every morning to put words on this page is what I do every morning. Sometimes very little, sometimes I write all day – taking breaks of course, but mostly to write and write and write some more in hopes a rhythm of thought will unfold - ideas, and weaving words into a message, into an explanation really, of why a feeling is felt, of how a viewpoint develops, and somehow someday actually explaining something that hasn’t been described that way before.
Why should my opinion matter?
Or, the larger question, why should my opinion matter any more than anyone else’s?
But what writing teaches us, what I have learned, is that our ideas can be heard – standing alone, or standing proud over lesser ideas – but first, we have to stand up, speak to be heard, and then we need to sit down and write.
Yes, right here.
What you’ve just read took twenty minutes to write, thirty to polish, and only a couple of minutes to upload for anyone to see. Why is it so simple and so hard at the same time?
Is it like butter, sometimes soft and sometimes hard, or frozen?
I was asked recently – in the course of quoting a fee to a prospective business client; he winced at the cost, realizing some things I do take very little time and appear to be essential clerical functions. My reply, the right one I believe, was that he pays me for what I know, not just for what I do. He gets my hour of work for the stipulated rate, but that hour comes with fifty years of experience …
Writing is like that too – we bring our minutes or hours to the keyboard, we hammer out instructions to the keys to convey our message, and that message may have taken our lifetime to learn. Some days that might be a lesson for the ages, an original profound thought to share with the world – to be quoted and chiseled into stone for all time to remember.
Some days, an age-old message in a new form resonates with some reader who has an epiphany moment that influences their life in a positive way. Between those two extremes, so many of the words the writer writes fall to the floor, fall through life’s cracks to never be seen, or to be read again. Ever. That could be depressing every day, and sometimes my mind goes their briefly, but the better chance, the reason, and the pleasure of doing is that one of those ‘value to the world’ or ‘value to someone’ results will occur.
For those reasons, writers write.
We write so readers can read – but more importantly, so readers might be inspired to write.
We learn a lot from what we read, we are influenced by writers we enjoy, but we never learn as much as we learn by writing our thoughts.
Anyone can do it.
There is no need to share or publish.
But once the fuse is lit, you cannot stop.
It’s better and safer than any booze you’ll try or drug you’ll take – it is intoxicating.
Frustrating, hair-yanking-out frustrating. And beautiful. Satisfying. Like the best romp you ever had or dreamt of having. I said something like that to someone once, and his reply was, “Mark, you’re not doing it right.”
He might have been right, but I know I’m doing it write.
The alternative would be to sit silent, to not write a word. But if I did, how else could I release my joys, reveal my pain, paint my dreams, or discuss a big idea?
I suppose I could take up painting, or sculpture, but for now, I’ll stick to a daily drive to write better what is inside my head – and someone might change their mind, change their thinking about something, and then it will all have been worthwhile.
It already is, and it keeps getting better.
The magic, of course, is not to describe an idea or argument with more words, but rather to explain it more effectively – and more powerfully – with fewer words.
I write for joy. Everything else is making a living and making a life – so I can write. I’ve enjoyed many pleasures of money, work, love, lust, booze, and brief ego-boosts of being celebrated for achievements. Still, nothing has ever given me so much freedom, risk, pleasure and pain, fulfillment, and pursuit of desire than this blank page begging me for words. It’s much like Frosts’ description of the grassy path that looked as nice and wanted wear.