Thursday, March 03, 2011

On not wanting to write

It's crazy. Writing is supposed to be what I love to do most in this world. I have time. I have solitude. I have emotional and financial support. I am very, very lucky in these regards. Yet when it comes to pouring out my required 1,000 words for the day on my novel, more often than not, I just don't want to.*

I know I share this problem with millions of writers; there's a whole industry dedicated to producing prompts, encouragement, and inspiring threats for writers, all for a low, low subscription fee. But what I still don't get is why I don't want to write whenever my self-appointed time rolls around each day. You'd think I'd be champing at the bit to write. You'd think I'd do it all day long, that I'd have to be pulled kicking and screaming from the computer. So again, I ask, why?

Here are a couple of answers I've thought of, none of which are fully satisfying:
  • It's tiring. The intense concentration that kicks in, once I finally do get going, really does take something out of me. I don't like being tired. But what exactly am I saving myself for?

  • There is no immediate (or possibly even distant) concrete payoff. If I cook a meal, I get to eat it. If I do a job for money, I get paid. I know one is supposed to write for oneself, ultimately--that publication, acclaim, any kind of payment, etc. are just icing on the much larger, more nutritious cake that is doing what you truly love. And yet. After a writing session, I may feel pleased with what I've written, but I may also feel that I've just spent two hours shouting into a great, dark canyon that does not even echo.

  • When writing a novel especially, one tends to feel lost a good part of the time. Yes, I have a sort of overall outline, a general sense of where I'm going, but most days I feel I'm hiking through some vast wheat field, with only an iffy compass telling me I'm going in the right direction. I do not like feeling lost.

  • I feel guilty. Most people never get the chance to do something they truly love. Who am I to be given that opportunity? Do I deserve it, when so many others can't even imagine having it? This is self-indulgence of the worst kind--and to top it off, I'm still procrastinating! I don't even appreciate what I have! Self indulgence and ingratitude!

  • I don't like what I'm writing. Actually, this one does not feel so true at the moment. To be honest, I'm rather fond of what I'm writing these days. But perhaps I think that fondness is delusional. Because it really is terrible, what I'm writing. Yes, that's probably it! If I don't like my writing, I shouldn't be doing it at all. And if I do like it, it means I'm out of my mind!
I don't know. It's probably best not to think about this stuff at all. Just get over yourself and do it already, right?

Or I could clean the kitchen...

*Obviously writing about not wanting to write is no problem at all. This is because it is, at its heart, complaining. This is perhaps the easiest form of discourse, spoken or written, to generate. Maybe this is because complaining shuts off expectations of any sort--it's a substitute for doing something. And it's fun.

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