There’s a quote I often hear repeated when people find out I’m writer. It goes something like: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve heard it attributed to Confucius, Mark Antony, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde. But the truth is, I don’t care who said it, and I absolutely despise hearing it.
It’s a nice idea. It really is. But the fact of the matter is that it’s just not true. Here are some quotes about writing I prefer:
“You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” –Red Smith
“Writing is hard work and bad for the health.” –E.B. White
“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann
The truth of the matter–at least for me–is that in choosing a job I love, I’ve made work my life, and life my work. Writing is a terrific, indescribable alchemy. It’s spinning vast, unseen worlds from pure imagination. It’s creating complex characters who I gut and then heal only to gut once more. It’s living a thousand lives, eked out in tiny words and wobbly sentences and overwrought paragraphs and long, laborious, glorious manuscripts. It’s wonderful but it is also exceptionally, extravagantly hard. It’s hard because it’s a part of me–it’s a little bit of my soul made manifest. My blood, sweat, and tears. And sometimes, that’s just becomes too much to handle.
I started writing because I loved reading. Growing up, my local library had no limits on the number of books you could check out, and believe me, I took advantage of that. Reading was solace and escape and security and adventure and wonder. In middle school, we kept monthly reading logs. I think the goal was a book a week. One month, I turned in my log and it was closer to a book per day. My language arts teacher was so taken aback by this that she actually contacted my parents to make sure I was getting enough sleep and keeping up with my schoolwork.
Writing was the obvious spin-off of this all-consuming hobby. I started journaling at the age of 8 and filled up many horse-themed notebooks with the minutiae of homework and meals and crushes and friend dramas. It wasn’t long before I tried my hand at fiction–terrible, derivative fantasies about unicorns and princesses and magical artifacts that went nowhere and didn’t make any sense. Over time, these got (a little bit) better. I distinctly remember being at a house party during my freshman year of college, and having such a vivid scene for a story pop into my head that I set down my drink, walked out without saying goodbye to my friends, and went to sit in my room to write.
Sadly, in the decade since I chose what I loved as my job, I have lost a lot of that love. Reading and writing used to be my two favorite things in the world. Now, it’s nearly impossible for me to read a book without my internal editor picking apart plot holes and critiquing sentence structure. I can’t actually remember the last time I simply lost myself in a story. Similarly, I struggle to write a single sentence without wondering whether what I’m working on is marketable or whether my characters will be likable or whether my world is high-concept. I wonder, sometimes–if I went back in time and asked that twelve year old bookworm or that nineteen year old scribbler whether they’d trade their favorite hobby for a chance at having a book on the shelves at the bookstore and library, what they would choose?
I’m not always sure I made the right choice.
Listen, I realize this is a first world problem and I’m probably being a teeeeensy bit dramatic. I’m incredibly lucky to have had the resources and the support to pursue writing full time. Although the path to publication was slow, I did get the agent and the book deal and the sequel. I have two published books to my name. But that modicum of success doesn’t take into account the many, many books I’ve trunked. The books I’ve written that didn’t make it past my agent or worse, died on submission. Millions of words that will never see the light of day. Months and years of my life that haven’t borne any fruit. I don’t have any forthcoming novels or book deals in the works. I recently parted ways with my agent.
I’m just tired.
We all need breaks sometimes. I’m going to take one now. I’m not sure yet how I’ll spend it. Maybe I’ll find my way back to reading and give my middle school self a run for her money. Maybe I’ll get a fantastic idea for a new story and become so wrapped up in it that I can’t wait to run home and work on it. Or maybe I’ll just play solitaire on my phone for a few months. I’m not sure. I’m not going to worry about it.
This is all to say, I’m going to be stepping back from the blog in the new year. Hopefully not forever. And hopefully, if and when I’m ready to come back, I’ll have regained that spark I lost, and be eager to talk about reading and writing with the same enthusiasm I once did. Until then–keep reading and writing! I can’t wait to see what you all create.