Tag Archives: writing as therapy

Get to the Awesome (Writing Sucks)

Writing is always a struggle.

Put aside questions of whether a story is “good” or not. Even the simple acts of spinning ideas together out of nothingness, giving life to characters who are mere inventions of the mind, building worlds out of the scraps of imagination, are beyond the reach of the average person. Sure, they could do it. But they don’t. Writing, it turns out, is too much like work.

Because like work, it’s taxing. We all have a battery powering the clockwork that makes our bodies tick, and the battery can only carry so much juice. Work. Exercise. Family. These things drain the battery, even when they’re enjoyable. So, too, with writing. The energy you use for writing comes at the expense of other things in your life. Reading. Working overtime. Vegging out and watching that Walking Dead marathon of a weekend.

It’s not an uncommon day that finds me taxed and tapped out. Rough night with the kids (ours have been fighting off sickness for, oh, I dunno, A MONTH). Extra reports and paperwork to fill out at work. Meetings that run long even though everything that gets talked about could easily have been sent out in an e-mail. Traffic on roads that, on an ordinary day, flow like melted butter, but when it rains out, clog up like the arteries of a sixty-year-old meatatarian. On those days (and often more than once on those days) I’ll have the moment when I say, nope. Too much. Can’t do it. Not writing today.

The thought comforts me. I reclaim that hour. I don’t have to think about my spaghetti-plate plot. My oddly malformed characters. How I’m going to possibly bring the whole thing to an ending that makes any sort of sense.

But as is its wont, reality starts creeping in at the edges. My (admittedly arbitrary) deadline isn’t going anywhere. If I don’t write, my characters will stay lost. If I don’t pick at the plot (like a kitten snagging its claws in a strand of yarn), it’s going to stay tangled. If I don’t get out and push, the story is getting no closer to its ending.

In short, just like anything else in life, if I don’t sit down and do it, it ain’t gonna do itself.

Which means that the six months I’ve sunk into this project so far are wasted. Which means that all the mental effort I’ve dropped on this project turns into smoke. Which means that the story I’ve been building pulls a Jimmy Hoffa and vanishes from the earth.

And that’s just unacceptable.

Now, one day off doesn’t wreck the project. One writing session missed doesn’t put the story in the ditch. But one day all too easily turns into two. Two becomes three. Then it’s a week. Then a month. Momentum matters, and even after a year and a half of steady writing, the lure of falling back into a non-writing sloth dangles there, just at the edge of vision.

Can’t have it.


So, here in the closing days of the project, when fatigue is at an overwhelming high and I’m really ready to throw off the heavy mantle that is spewing out the first draft and be done with it, even on those days when I really feel like I simply just can’t anymore, I return to the page and I bang out a few more words.

And that’s why I think writing is just a little bit like magic. Because those first few words each day are work, make no mistake. And though sometimes it feels like it takes all of me to do it, there’s a satisfaction in it. The universe balances itself. As I exhaust my battery, using up its reserves on this creative endeavor, so too do I fill the reservoir. Even if the work never comes to publication, I get back something that I can’t even really articulate. And that’s the magic. It fills you up as it wears you down. As you give to the writing, the writing gives back to you.

It’s sort of like a religion, that way.

Come to think of it, writing needs a church where you could make proper offerings for blessings from the gods of prose. Burnt offerings of unpublished manuscripts. A donations plate for brilliant scraps of dialogue. Sunday school lessons in pacing and tone-setting.

A human sacrifice to atone for all the writing sins ever committed, including this particular blarg post.

Too much? Maybe too much.

Point is, writing sometimes sucks, but it’s always awesome.

Some days you have to push through the suck to get to the awesome.

Why I Write


From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I lose consciousness at night, my brain is like a leaky roof. Everything gets in. Too much traffic around this area. These people not getting the recognition they deserve. Those people just generally being inconsiderate asses to everybody else in the world. These little things seep in, like so much rain through old, patched-up shingles, and they soak the rafters in my old brain and start festering.

From the seeds of those spores (okay, seeds aren’t spores, whatever, I don’t science) I turn from observation to questioning. Why does traffic suck? What aren’t these people doing to get their recognition? What makes those people act like jerks?

From there, it’s conjecture. Maybe the traffic sucks because on the day the city planner designed this intersection, he’d just come in from a bad row with his wife over some unseemly texts on his cell phone, and he created a turn lane where what he really meant to do was bury the area underground with a few well-placed sticks of dynamite. Maybe these people aren’t getting recognition because deep down they don’t really need it, and they do the things they do not for fame and glory, but because it’s right and necessaryMaybe those jerks are jerks because they really don’t understand how society works, because nobody bothered to teach them, or because they haven’t actually taken off the blinders and have been staring hypnotized at the same clutter on their desks and the same general area around their television for the last EVERY YEAR OF THEIR LIVES.

Then, a strange alchemy occurs. Most of the thoughts I entertain throughout the day flow through the mind like water cycling through the toilets in your house before it returns to the sewer, but every now and then, a spark happens. I don’t know what causes the spark. If I did, I’d be making millions selling self-help books to writers (there’s a market for that, right?). But the spark reaches like the finger of a lackadaisical God down to one of these nonsensical musings and breathes life into it. Like an angry hornet trapped in the back windshield of a hot car on family vacation, that idea starts buzzing like a demon, throwing itself against the walls, crashing into the face of every innocent bystander it encounters. It makes itself unignorable, it demands to be heard, and whatever else I had in mind clears the fargo out of the way for fear of getting stung by this possessed seedling of a story.

I write to let the goldfingered hornets out of the car.

Until I put virtual pen to virtual paper, the car just fills up with those things until all I can hear all the time is a dull buzz behind everything, like the world is a radio station that’s tuned off the dial just a hair. Problem is, I didn’t realize until recently that that’s what was happening. I just thought that’s how the world was; a droning buzz filtered through the unholy cacophony of a car full of bees. And there was nothing wrong with that. But when I finally got off my donk and started writing regularly, it felt a little like those people putting in cochlear implants and hearing their own voice for the first time.

And it’s not just stories. Sure, writing is about giving the leash over to that angry hornet for a while and seeing what it has to say. But writing also allows me to focus my thinking, to bring under the microscope my meandering, jumbled thoughts on whatever issue is buzzing up my head on a given day. It gives me a productive way to process all the funny/weird/sad/infuriating/touching/puzzling/amazing things that happen in this life.

The point is that we’re all going to die one day. The only difference between a me who writes and a me who doesn’t is that the me who doesn’t write might be remembered by family for a few generations, while a me who writes might stick around in a general consciousness a little bit longer. In that way, I guess, my writing is motivated by a fear of being forgotten, by a selfish desire to make an impact on the world, no matter how small.

Writing, then, is a daily release, a self-guided meditation, a barbaric yawp into the void.

Writing is a way for me to envision a better world and ponder about how it might be brought forth.

And writing is, of course, about telling stories. I don’t think the human machine will ever satisfy its appetite for good stories, and if you can tell a good story, well, that’s your ticket to a kind of immortality.

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