Disappointment isn’t something that I deal with well. More often than not I keep things behind the scenes, but occasionally whining slips out—as evidenced by this post I’ve written and quickly put up before I could go and delete it.
But I’ve been thinking I need a new hobby. This writing thing has been great and I truly enjoy it, but the disappointment and rejection tend to build and create this volcano of frustration and self-doubt that threatens to erupt when even the garbage man refuses to buy my new book.
YOU CAN READ IT WHILE YOU’RE ON THE CRAPPER, YOU FOOL!
Anyway, I have a couple humor-centric posts coming soon, but that’s where my head is. Stuck up my butt in a constant loop of defeat, researching ways to make creative doilies out of cat hair and perfecting my pitch for “Shark Tank.”
But a friend—a writer friend—alerted me to something she had recently read that might resonate, and yes, yes it did. It’s an introduction to “Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Writers on How and Why They Do What They Do” by editor Meredith Maran.
Below is part of what she had to say:
“Why do writers write? Anyone who’s ever sworn at a blinking cursor has asked herself that question at some point. Or at many, many points.
When the work is going well, and the author is transported, fingers flying under the watchful eye of the muse, she might wonder, as she takes her first sip of the coffee she poured and forgot about hours ago, ‘How did I get so lucky, that this is what I get to do?’
And then there are the less rapturous writing days or weeks or decades, when the muse is injured on the job and leaves the author sunk to the armpits in quicksand, and every word she types or scribbles is wrong, wrong, wrong, and she cries out to the heavens, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’
It’s a curiosity in either case. Why do some people become neurosurgeons, dental hygienists, investment bankers, while others choose an avocation that promises only poverty, rejection, and self-doubt? Why do otherwise rational individuals get up every morning – often very, very early in the morning, before the sun or the family or the day job calls – and willingly enter the cage?
Is it the triumph of seeing one’s words in print? Statistics show this isn’t a reasonable incentive. According to the website Publishing Explained, more than one million manuscripts are currently searching for a U.S. publisher. One percent of these will get the nod.
Nor can we credit the satisfaction of a job well done. As the ever-cheerful Oscar Wilde put it, “Books are never finished. They are merely abandoned.” Only 30 percent of published books turn a profit, so we can rule out material motivation. God knows it can’t be for the boost in self-esteem. To paraphrase Charlie Chaplin’s depiction of actors, ‘Writers search for rejection. If they don’t get it, they reject themselves.’
Why, then, does anyone write? Unlike performing brain surgery, cleaning teeth, or trading books, anyone can pick up a yellow pad or a laptop or a journal and create a poem or a story or a memoir. And, despite the odds against attaining the desired result, many, many people do. We fill our journals and write our novels and take our writing classes. We read voraciously, marveling at the sentences and characters and plot twists our favorite authors bestow upon us. How do they do it? we ask ourselves. And why?”
In 2001, naturalist Terry Tempest Williams addressed the question in “Why I Write” in Northern Lights magazine.
“I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change.”
I don’t know if I would go as far as to say I write in hopes the world will change, but I suppose I write in hopes that my world will change in some way. Writing gives me an escape, and although at times it feels like it makes me a prisoner to my head and leaves me at the mercy of readers who might not be there, I come back. Every day I come back to the words.
And I promise words with less weight in the future, but I just had to vent. Today, that’s what writing is for (the doilies will just have to wait.)
If you write, why do you write? If you read, why do you read?
Like the blog? Buy the NEW book here. Why? It has stories about drunk nuns, Vanilla Ice and adventures at the ATM. Plus, you’ll be cooler than my garbage man.