You promised yourself you’d write a novel by age thirty, and your birthday is just five months away. You’re trying to make tenure and you need to churn out twelve papers by a set date. Your ex told you you’d never make it as a writer and you’re determined to prove her wrong. You feel most yourself when you’re lost in a world of your creation.
The reasons why we write, and why we publish, vary wildly. For some, the reasons are one and the same, and for others, they don’t overlap. That prof seeking tenure may write for the sheer joy of it, but publish because her job depends on it.
It’s a myth that “feeling most yourself” amounts to feeling happy. Sometimes, for instance, I feel most myself when I am being petty and wandering around under a storm cloud I’ve seeded. But writing is the tool I use to pull myself into a different, lighter emotional space. I don’t publish that work…it’s mostly dad jokes anyway, like “Why did the writer write? To get to the other side.”
Why would anyone sit down to do this agonizing, tedious, lonely work without a reason? Here you are in a land populated only by yourself, and you’re not sure who’s going to come out on top. Starting with why (if I may borrow an old idea from Simon Sinek) is the best way to get to how. Your why brings you through the low points and keeps you coming back to your keyboard every day.
“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.”
Revenge and resentment are wonderful fuel, but rely on them only for the spark, if that. Let them be your reason for writing, and that conflagration will burn you, burn you out, and bore your readers. If you’re writing to get even with your ex, therapy is more affordable and tidier than the lawsuit that may be coming your way.
Why are you dedicating hours, months, years to this pursuit? What brings you to your computer at 4 am every day while others are cozy in bed? In order to reach a destination in your writing, you need to figure out why you’re here, and in some cases how you got here. Position your mind where you want to be, and trust your writing to bring you there, one excruciating step at a time.