We put a lot of bunk around the notion of being a writer.
We make a big deal out of putting words on paper instead of simply releasing them to the air. We have a mythology that tells us that writing is a torturous activity. Believing that, we don’t even try it or, if we do, and if we find it unexpectedly easy, we stop, freeze up, and tell ourselves that whatever it is that we’re doing, it can’t be “real” writing.
By real writing we mean the kind we have all the mythology about. We mean the kind that does not involve scenarios like the one I had tonight: a dinner with my good friend Dori, watching Il Postino on video afterward, kissing Dori good-bye when it was still mid-evening, and strolling into my study to write just a little while little dog Maxwell curls at my feet.
There is something too casual, too effortless, too normal about this kind of writer’s life. It too closely resembles everyone else’s life—just with some writing sandwiched in. Why, if this is how a writer lives, lots of us could do it. If the suffering is actually optional, if writing needn’t be an antisocial activity.
What if there were no such thing as a writer? What if everyone simply wrote? What if there were no “being a real writer” to aspire to? What if writing were simply about the act of writing?
If we didn’t have to worry about being published and being judged, how many more of us might write a novel just for the joy of making one? Why should we think of writing a novel as something we couldn’t try—the way an amateur carpenter might build a simple bookcase or even a picnic table? What if we didn’t have to be good at writing? What if we got to do it for sheer fun?
What if writing were approached like white-water rafting? Something to try just for the fact of having tried it, for the spills and chills of having gone through the rapids of the creative process. What if we allowed ourselves to be amateurs (from the Latin verb amare, “to love”). If we could just get over the auditioning to be respected at this aspect, a great many people might love writing.
The bottom line is the fact that the act of writing makes you a writer. We all have the right to write.
has been an active artist for over three decades. She is the author of more than thirty-five books, including such bestselling works on the creative process as The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World, and Finding Water. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film, and television.
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