Apprently, when you ask most people why they write, they say it’s because they’re full of stories they’re desperate to share. They’re convinced everyone else wants to read their angsty poetry, soppy lyrics, or meandering, self-indulgent novels.
Me, I have no stories, or surely none I feel bound to commit to paper. I have angsty poetry and soppy lyrics by the truckload, but I’m smart enough to keep them offline.
I write because I can’t not write. “Not writing” says Jincy Willet in The Writing Class, “is almost as painful as writing.”
I suffer not writing like Kate Moss suffers cocain withdrawal. I get the shakes, I become incoherent, I lose direction. Oh wait, that’s Kate all the time.
I feel it like a slow pressure. It scratches behind my eyes while I’m watching TV. It whispers to me while I read. “Why are you reading someone else’s drivel? You can do better than this,” or, more commonly, “This is fucking brilliant. How am I ever going to compete with this? Why do I continue to insult real authors by calling myself a writer?”
I guess the trick is, not to think of it as a competition. I know I’m not the next Tolkien. I’m not even the next Womans Weekly columnist. But that’s OK, because I wouldn’t want anyone else’s used shoes. I like new high heels with the sparkle still on the patent leather, please.
So I don’t get competitive. I don’t have any stories. And I find writing unutterably painful. And yet, I can’t not write.
Me not writing is not pretty. Me not writing is like a twelve year old with ADD who’s been given ten cans of V on Christmas morning. It’s just not healthy.
And so, I know now not to ignore the voices. I know to notice the scratching. I know that, even when I have nothing particular I think I want to write, that the scratching is my subconscious, my muse, telling me that it’s got something to say. In the end, I’m just a medium.
The writing isn’t something I choose. It chooses me.