While meandering through the collage of writer, reader and publishing professional blogs, I stumbled upon a gift. And oh, did I ever need this very timely gift!
On Weronika Janczuk’s site I found a link to an essay by George Orwell on “Why I Write.” Now…I am in no way suggesting I possess the genius of Orwell, but something within his message about his own journey toward serious writing resonated for me so strongly that it brought tears to my eyes. So, of course, I have to share.
“But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf’, etc. etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside.”
Ahhhh….thank you, thank you, THANK YOU George Orwell. I am not crazy—or at least, not any crazier than you! I’ve been hearing this mental dialogue my whole adult life and I’ve finally quit running and turned to embrace it. And, if he could describe writing as like living through a painful illness (instead of the oft claimed—I write because I must), then I know my path to this art is not so impossible. My mind may write without prompting, but the last couple decades attest to the fact that I can live just fine without writing anything down. I was struggling with the notion that writing might not be for me if it’s so darned hard and I really can walk away at any time.
I guess the real question is not whether I can walk away, but do I want to? The answer is clearly no. If I won the lottery today, I would still want to write a novel.