Why do we do it?

I’m talking about writing.

I mean, no one makes us do it. Us writery people.

It’s hard work. No, really, you non-writery people, it is. A slog, most of the time. Back-breaking. Well, maybe not back-breaking, but certainly butt-expanding. And mostly thankless toil. The financial rewards, unless you’re one of a very lucky few, range from negligible to non-existent.

Whereas the frustrations are great. The cussedness of the Sodding Work In Progress, that simply won’t come out as brilliant as you feel it ought to be. As you know it could be. If only, maybe, someone else was writing it. Someone with an ounce of talent.

Is it for the glory? Funny.

Or the satisfaction of doing something creative? Have you ever met a satisfied writer?

The whole process is too much of a compromise. In which you learn to accept that this less than perfect thing is the best you’re ever going to get it to be. 

And after the long slog of writing the damned thing, there’s the agony of letting others read it. The anger of dealing with their idiotic comments. The embarrassment of realising, after a depressed weekend sleeping on the sofa, that maybe there’s maybe something in what they say after all.

The rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting. Fixing the unfixable. Realising that actually the way you had it was better. That you were right all along. The fear, the uncertainty of wondering if maybe you weren’t. Maybe you’ve never been right in your life. About anything.

Maybe you should just delete the whole thing, put your computer on ebay and spend the proceeds on HBO box-sets. All those hours and days and months spent hunched over your keyboard. You could have been watching TV for fuck’s sake.

If only people still threw manuscripts onto the fire.

Finding from somewhere the… whatever it is… courage… delusion… desperation… to go on.

But still the insecurity. The crippling self-doubt. And worse, the monstrous, unseemly, egotistical self-belief.

The agony of submission. The waiting and the waiting and the waiting and the waiting. (Ever noticed that ‘waiting’ is only one letter different from ‘writing’?) The obsessive checking of the inbox.

The disappointment. Of no one ever getting back to you. Or of discovering, when you prompt them, that no one wants it. And no, it doesn’t soften the blow to be told how truly great it is, but somehow not quite right for our list at this moment in time.

The backache, and the heartache and the bellyaching with other writers. The envy of those who somehow have ‘made it’. Whatever ‘it’ is.

Which is still there even if you do manage to get your book published. Whatever level of success you achieve, someone else will always have achieved more.

Yeah, so. Why do we do it? If you have any ideas, let me know.



7 Thoughts

  1. Whisks says:

    No idea, Roger. It’s a mystery. Perhaps a writer of mysteries should write about that mystery? :)

  2. Roger says:

    It’s a mystery to me!

  3. Julie-Ann Corrigan says:

    I have no idea at all, and I do ponder the question a lot. Obsessional need to (often) ruin what could be a nice life?!

  4. Been asking myself the same thing recently, Roger, and I really, really wish I knew the answer.

  5. CJ says:

    I’m still trying to work it out. I sometimes sit back and wonder ‘why am I putting myself through this? To what end? All of the uncertainty; the rejection; the painful, painful critiques / reviews; the gnawing doubts; the crippling self loathing… why would any sane person put themselves through it, especially voluntarily? But we do. And not only that, we keep doing it, over and over again. Either we’re gluttons for punishment or eternal optimists (with a masochistic streak).

  6. stephen says:

    It’s the same analogy as climbing Mt Everest. We do it to conquer our demons and reach the summit, plant a flag, and say I’ve done it.

  7. Roger says:

    Thanks Julie-Ann, Emma, CJ and Stephen, for your comments. Seems to have touched a bit of a nerve with writers, this one!

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