Writing is a Wholetime Job

Writing is a wholetime job; no professional writer can afford only to write when he feels like it.  — W. Somerset Maugham

It isn’t a question of will you write today. It is a question of what you will write. A writer writes, because he cannot not do so, and keep his sanity.

I used to think that I could give up writing whenever I chose, which would be whenever I felt I had a nest egg that would keep me fed and happy. It seemed that I had somehow fallen into writing novels and selling them, that I wrote as a job and paycheck the same as getting up and going in to be a clerk in a supermarket. Some of that was true…but there is always more to the story.

What I came, finally, to realize was that I could, maybe, give up writing novels, but I will be writing until the day I die. I write every day in some way. I write e-mails and letters on real paper when I can squeeze in the chance. These can become long missives when I am not working on a novel, proof that I am given to lengthy expression. I write in my head when I am away from the keyboard. I compose things I want to explain to someone, or I imagine a character in a scene.

I write each morning in a journal, where I record all manner of thoughts and struggles. Sometimes I’m in such a snit about a matter that I write in my journal several times a day. (It keeps me from spontaneous compustion.) I have imagined someone reading my journals when I am dead and gone, and saying, “My Lord, she was a neurotic.” Which of course is why the journals, all 30 or 40 of them are tucked in the safe.

The main point is that a writer writes, and writes constantly. Feeling like it has nothing to do with it. I can’t say that I especially feel like writing when I first open my eyes, but I have formed the habit of sitting up, putting on my glasses and opening my journal for my daily page. It is what I do, as much a part of me as my blue eyes.

And, if you are going to be writing anyway, and expressing ideas that can very likely have some sort of impact on a reader, you might as well get some money, or at the very least a kick out of it in published form.

It is the act of writing that makes a writer, nothing else.

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