"I'd rather be known as a writer than do the actual writing."--My friend Sam, a published author
"I hate writing. I love having written."—Dorothy Parker
I wonder: Is writing really all about the completion, the ensuing love? Why choose this path, when one could have been so many other things: a goat herder, an accountant, a nailer of nails, a carrier of rocks, a subway mime? Fame and satisfaction might be theirs, too, and a lot faster.
Yes, having it done and sealed up and your love assured is fine and good, but then—the hovering expectation when anything can still happen. That is better, perhaps. The moment when the world goes still and silent and the only things still moving are your hands, small and clumsy in the glare of the screen. (Or, if you've taken a proper typing course, capable and sure. I have not. I have already established that I am a fool, and type with a special blend of four swift fingers.)
Why take this path? Why, for example, did I rise at 4:00 am last Wednesday and wander to the computer screen to type a single line of text? It was a title for a story, nothing more. What mad and foolish pride would let me think that precious line too good to be lost?
My title contained a character's name. I worried that if I left him at the edge of sleep, he would wink out of existence. Perhaps it's something like wondering if I had turned left that day, instead of right, my children would never have been born. I woke in the morning and leaned over my saved document, like patting my pocket for a stone I found.
"Write it down, write it down, write it down," the voice says. It says it at the most inconvenient times: when I am weighted down with bags and wedged in like a cow in the subway. I obey, even if it means the anger of lost sleep and a scrabbling after linty, sticky pens. Sometimes the pens are wrapped around with stray hairs and their nibs poke holes in my baggie of "emergency almonds"—my purse is a cruel wasteland. But it always contains a pen.
Do we write for adulation? Do we write to see our names on the wall? When I'm gone, there will be more than baggage and tag sale treasures to turn out of my house. I have saved the lives of characters. I have loved words. What else could I have done? I could, instead, step out into the wide world and be nothing, nothing at all. I could close this screen and step away, and I could be happy. I would go to the park. I would speak with people.
But no. We occasionally choose disaster and heartbreak. We invite joy. We want to live all the lives we could have had. We are greedy hoarders, revelers, egomaniacs, bearers of sadness, fools for long and fine moments when even the house seems to tremble and await what we'll bring. We wake in the night.