Writing requires hours upon hours of your time with absolutely no guarantees that readers will enjoy your story as much as you have enjoyed writing it. It requires hope and belief in an imperfect system, where the odds are stacked against you, those in authority have no idea what will be the next bestseller until after it’s already hit the shelves, and if you’re doing it properly, you’ll be completely drained at the end of the day. It’ll wake you up in the middle of the night; it’ll confirm you’ve started hearing voices, and requires constant attention to grammar and punctuation and dialogue tags and dangling modifiers and plunging participles; it starts with a blinking cursor flashing at you in a mocking manner, and ends with you sitting in a corner rocking yourself to sleep and sucking on your thumb; it bleeds you dry emotionally, and physically it probably knocks a couple years off your life; it’s like getting your teeth cleaned with a chainsaw and soldering iron…and yet there’s no high like a writing euphoria, where similes and metaphors and plotlines pop off the printed page; characters develop a second and third dimension; and you’ve managed to somehow convince yourself for just the briefest moment in time that you’re one brilliant sonofabitch.
It’s probably singlehandedly the hardest mission I’ve ever undertaken, and yet I couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to. It’s worse than the most addictive drug on the black market, surging through my veins like some creative tidal wave, and popping onto the page longer and louder than a Times Square fireworks display. Yet, only faith and drive hold me accountable each and every day. Nobody dangles a stopwatch over my head; no supervisor thrusts a deadline in front of my face; and no predetermined word count lingers on my computer monitor.
What drives me is the will to succeed and improve, and the therapeutic and cathartic nature of the task itself. It has its own self-sustaining life-force and enough energy to power the sun. And it’s as much a part of me as my head, arms, or heart, and when I don’t write I feel incomplete and unfulfilled and moody and exhausted for unexplained reasons.
But if I can’t please myself and stare in the mirror with a smile on my face and a surge of adrenaline coursing through my veins, I’m fairly certain the reader won’t be pleased. Instead of cheering by my side, he’ll mock me, frown, and then proceed to laugh in my face, spittle flying from his lips, his finger thrust out toward my chest. And in all honesty he’d have every right to do so.
But I can’t make it about him, at least not initially, otherwise I’ll stall out in the middle of the interstate before getting pummeled by an F-150 cruising along at 70 mph. No, instead, I have to write because I believe in the craft and the characters and the story, as I breathe life into it with a restrained and shaky breath. But I must have faith, even though I can’t touch or see or sometimes even understand what has taken me from this point to the next and the one after that, trudging through the rain and the snow until I reach some creatively comforting state, and in the process make myself just a little bit happier than I was before.