“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” – Truman Capote
Welcome to Monday, the day one’s brain should feel fresh and revived after a weekend’s rest but seems to succumb to erratic thoughts and dreams of one’s bed. Hence, I present to you a somewhat circular tangent, a glimpse into the inconsistent nature of my “Monday Brain.”
The writing “lifestyle” is riddled with cliches. In fact, writing, I believe, is often romanticized by the general public. I’ve listened to friends divulge their desires to write, to become poets or revered novelists. They describe what lures them, they dream of an inspirational tap from which literary gold pours uncanny characters, meaningful dialogues or symbolic settings. They seem to revel in the idea of “contributing something meaningful,” of attributing metaphorical significance to an otherwise mundane notion.
But I don’t believe there’s such thing as a “writing lifestyle,” especially not a “writing lifestyle” that infuses work with meaning or inherent significance. I don’t believe that copious amounts of coffee, waking at five in the morning, shuffling from café to café or drinking heavily to endure the world’s downfalls is a part of this “lifestyle.” Perhaps for some. But not all. I believe that the writing “lifestyle,” includes writing. And reading. That is all. Anything else is unique to the individual. So despite the many romanticized understandings of the writing life, what’s so special about writing?
I believe that writers write because they must. Because if they don’t, they will go crazy. If they don’t, they will feel the stories in them bloat, resulting in a great discomfort that can be soothed by none other than writing. Or reading. Always read. (If you want to write, read first. Do not waste time considering the “But if I read I might imitate…” argument. It’s a ridiculous argument.)
Beyond that, I believe that every writer writes for their own personal reasons. They have lived stories unique to them. There’s no umbrella explanation for why someone can write or why they want to write. Here is where I diverge… As explained, I don’t particularly believe in the “writing lifestyle,” in the cliches of alluring and overused quotes (though I do, I’m sure you’ve noticed, love quotes.) So why do I write?
Personally, I write to make sense of what I don’t understand. That’s not the only reason, but it’s a huge part. As a kid, I discovered that I could write myself out of funks. To this day, writing is my most valued coping mechanism. This past week I felt lethargic and overwhelmed, unmotivated and apathetic. Feelings that most of us experience at one time or another. To be human, of course, is accompanied by highs and lows of varying extremes and in the face of unpleasant or overwhelming emotions we develop coping mechanisms. For some people, a good yoga session will do the trick. For others, a trip to the river, the shooting range, tea and a bath, unleashing a fit of rage, walking the dogs, cooking. You name it. For me? Writing. Other than a few special people whose presence in my life is irregular, nothing can pull me from the water like writing. Writing is my home. (Oh goodness… here I go, romanticizing! It’s easily to fall into…but dangerous, also.)
As cheesy as it sounds, writing does feel like home. Someone very close to me once observed that I’ll likely never find home in a place but that I’ll discover home in another person. Their observation, I confess, is likely quite accurate. I’m not one to get overly attached to physical places. I feel thrilled to move apartments, schools, cities. I get bored easily. Ask my family… every trip we’ve gone on in the past few years has begun with an enthusiastic declaration that I plan to move, become a resident of Hawaii, California, Alaska, Cuba, China or Italy. “I am going to move!” I say and generally recant within a week or so.
This declaration, however, reflects a deep obsession with the concept of home, an obsession that developed years ago. When I was in elementary school my fascination with building forts was rooted in a desire to “build a home,” to create a space that felt genuine and authentic, safe and full of possibility. I have a kind and loving family, a family who struggles to understand why I was so obsessed with breaking away, moving to the forest, vanishing into solitude. To this day I don’t know why. I still feel displaced. Discombobulated. What orients me, however, is writing. When I write, I feel settled, stable. If home is defined as “the place one lives permanently,” then I am all the more willing to argue that writing is my home, since fathoming a permanent, physical address terrifies me.
I’ll conclude my circular tangent by suggesting we steer clear of assumptions that suggest a belief in the “quintessential writing lifestyle.” I personally reconvene with myself every few weeks to remind myself that writing requires work, more work and more work. It doesn’t flower overnight. Writing, I don’t believe, magically improves by following a set of “Kafka-esque” guidelines. Make your own guidelines. Consider why you write, how it shapes you. Decide what you want to accomplish and a lifestyle will naturally unfold around you.
Lastly, don’t fret if the “copious coffee” stereotype eats you alive. It preys on everyone, doctors and architects alike.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Have a happy Monday!