But perhaps asking that latter question gets to the root of things. Maybe I do have to write. Maybe I can’t help myself. When I asked that question, I tried to think of other things I had to do every day and came up with things like brushing my teeth, taking the handful of pills every day that keep me healthy and possibly alive, sleeping enough, eating right. Those things all keep me balanced and on the right path. I could choose not to do them, but why, when I would be harming myself?
I think I could make the same conclusion about writing, about living for a while in an imaginary world. Maybe I do have to do that, because if I didn’t, I’d be harming myself.
Consider: I’ve been making up stories since I was about six years old. And perhaps, if I’d had a different childhood, one that kept me free from bullying, incessant teasing, and loneliness, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. Writing filled a void…it still does. It gives me control over at least a world in my imagination, often when any control of the real world seems increasingly out of my grasp. Writing, like reading, allows me an escape.
For those of you who might have thought the answer to this self-posed question might be something like fame or fortune, I really have to scoff at that answer. For one, although I’ve achieved a small measure of success, those things still elude me. And they eluded me before I’d had a single word published. Yet, I wrote and wrote and wrote…even when there was no promise of financial or public reward. Why? It’s work. It’s hard. It’s lonely.
Because I’m compelled to. Because I need to. Even if I had never seen a story or book published, I believe I would still be writing. It’s my safety release valve. It’s my gift to myself, even if I can find about a million things to procrastinate about before getting down to business. It’s my gift (or curse?) from a higher power. I honestly believe there’s a thin line between creativity and insanity…and perhaps it’s the writing, the telling of stories, that keeps me just a hair on the side of creativity.
In closing, I offer you a few word from a woman who I think also had to write, Pearl S. Buck:
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
This post was originally published on the Dreamspinner Press Blog August 12, 2015.