I’ve been visiting in Charleston for two weeks, and during that time I have not written one word, other than a very brief blog post last week.
No excuses. I’ve just been too busy and too preoccupied with other things. It was OK for the first week, kind of like a vacation, but I’ve noticed over the past few days I’ve started getting restless. I’m not sleeping as well. I can’t concentrate on my reading. And it’s harder to string coherent words together for this post.
The problem is that I need to write.
It’s really hard to explain this to other people. Most people, when they’re not working, try not to think about work.
But a writer, or at least this writer, never really leaves the job. It’s swirling around in the head all the time, pieces of dialogue and fragments of sentences floating through brain matter like some kind of crazy alphabet soup.
Not complaining. I love writing, love the way my characters come along with me on trips. What I don’t like is the feeling I get when I don’t write. Part of it’s guilt, I’m sure. One of my biggest motivators is guilt. But guilt can be pushed aside. This anxious, breathless feeling I get from not writing can’t be pushed aside or ignored, at least not for long. I can only describe it as withdrawal.
Writing for me is not an optional activity. It’s a need. A need to make sense of the world, or my perception of the world at least. A need to solve the problems of the characters talking to me, to make sense of their worlds. Writing is a necessity.
I hesitate to say all this, because it sounds so arrogant. Like “writing is a calling” and the rest of the world is doing meaningless stuff. Maybe that’s the way some writers feel. I don’t know. My explanation is much less pretentious. For me writing is a drug. I hate it sometimes, I try to come down off of it, I’m even ashamed sometimes of the addiction. But I need that high.
So there it is. I’m not writing for any noble reason like trying to change the world, I’m not writing because it makes me a decent living (it does not), and I’m not writing because it makes me a better person (it does not). I’m writing because I have to. Because I feel lousy when I don’t.