The past week I’ve given myself permission to not do any writing and just read instead. It felt deliciously evil. So much so that I’ve read three and a half books in the past 6 days. Oh glory, glory, hally hoo-hah. Such a delicious change.
So as I was lying in bed last night, indulging in the latest VP instructor’s story, I briefly entertained a thought:
What if you just gave up writing? There’d finally be enough hours in the day for everything you want to do. I mean, can you imagine getting home from work and not having to sacrifice cooking or yoga or reading in favor of writing? You could exist in an indefinite hedonistic state!
I put the book down and stared up at the ceiling for a bit after that thought came and went.
I’ve always had something I was aching for, ever since I hit puberty, so at first this thought was distressing. Asking me to give up pursuit of an impossible goal is like asking me to give up breathing. I feel empty and adrift without constantly working towards something and the constant dull pain from the resulting (self-inflicted) ego bruises is as familiar as my own heartbeat.
But the prospect of having no obligations is intoxicating – nothing to worry about, nothing to plan for, nothing to lament when things go wrong or when your failure grows so large you become warped from the gravity of it. But this feels so wrong – so unhuman.
Everyone has a “thing,” be it striving for the perfect house, or family, or fantasy football team or five minute mile or golf swing. We have a compulsion to seek novel things, then seek to get better at it (I mean, look at the points you can get on Xbox games for achieving certain things in certain games). We have a vision of what we could be, and what we are and that gap between is what causes us to get up at 5:30 in the morning and pull on our running shoes or bring our camera with us everywhere or learn a new coding language.
Who wants to spend their life and at the end of it say: “I’m certainly proud of the amount of TV I watched.”
So the prospect of giving up writing became less hollow at that thought. I haven’t always wanted to be a writer (though to be fair, it is the first thing I wanted to be). I wanted to be a lot of other things and threw myself in with as much vigor as I’m using now (go back and talk to my fifteen-year-old self who had no other eyes than for music). I’m sure I would find something else if I gave it up, so at this thought the distress abated.
And it left me with the question: Why write at all? Why do this one thing that brings you so much grief and frustration; that feels so impossibly out of reach most days?