I’ve been thinking about writing a lot these days. Writing is something that comes so naturally to me that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t do it; of course, I often go through long periods of time when I don’t write at all. And I think I suffer for it. I go through my days with essays half-formed in my mind, lines of dialogue with no one to speak them, and long, tangled strings of thought that can’t be unraveled without grammar, so they stay tangled up for far too long. I started writing as soon as I could hold a crayon and I sometimes cringe thinking of what Stephen King (not to mention my seventeen-year-old self!) would think if they knew how I squander my gift.
I’ve realized what the problem is, what it has been for a very long time. It’s this: writing is a very time-consuming hobby and I don’t prioritize it. I don’t prioritize it because it is time-consuming, and I also don’t prioritize it because deep down I wonder if it’s worth the time I need to spend on it.
So let’s unpack that some:
1. Writing is time-consuming. It is for me, anyway. When I was in high school my grades suffered because all I wanted to do was write novels. When I was in college I spent an entire semester barely scraping by in my classes and seeing friends only when I really needed to, because all I wanted to do was write. (It was my happiest semester, by the way.) When I write, especially when I write fiction, it is all-consuming. It was okay for me to eschew “real life” when I was 22; it’s less okay for me to do it at 35, now that I have a job, a home, two children, and a marriage. I truly don’t know how to balance writing with the rest of my life, and it’s why I haven’t taken my writing seriously in the last five or ten years. I don’t know how to write like a grown-up.
2. I feel like I can’t justify it. Isn’t that weird? I just realized this. The reason I don’t actually sit down and make writing a priority in my life is that I feel like I can’t justify doing so, spending so much time and effort on a hobby that … what, isn’t lucrative? Is pointless? What? I highly doubt I will ever publish (if statistics are to be believed), so … what’s the point of writing a novel, then? That’s the heart of the matter: is the joy of writing enough?
When I had that realization I thought of that Eric Liddell quote: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
Well, I believe that God also made me for a purpose, but he also made me a good writer. And when I write I feel his pleasure. (she said a little indignantly.)
It’s true. When I write I get into a flow state that I can’t achieve anywhere else in my life. Believe me, I’ve tried. Yoga and baking are the only other things that even come close to competing with how much I love to write, and they are a distant, distant second and third. Time falls away in great chunks and I am utterly transported and transfixed.
But I have this mental roadblock of feeling like because it will never get me anywhere, so to speak, the time I spend on writing is ultimately pointless. How awful that is! But I can’t disregard how hard it is for me to achieve balance in my life when I write. When I’m working on something that I really love, it is my whole world. My whole, happy world. It feels weird and irresponsible to prioritize something that takes me away from the world to the extent that writing does, but at the same time, not writing makes me feel like I am missing a limb, or more accurately, one of my senses.
I have been walking around missing my sense of writing for a really long time. So long that I can almost convince myself that it was never really there to begin with.
I want to arrange my life so that I can prioritize writing again, but to organize my whole life around a hobby feels so self-indulgent. That is where I keep getting stuck. But I know I don’t want to live without my sense of writing for the rest of my life. What a waste.