Ask any writer why he or she writes and you are likely to get the answer, “Because I have to.” You’d probably get this answer from a bestselling author who’s on deadline to deliver her next manuscript. And you’d probably get the same answer from an unpublished teenager who taps away at a computer in her parents’ basement. One makes money from writing, the other doesn’t. At least not yet. So money doesn’t explain the need they both feel to write. I recently read an article by Ann Lamott that, for me, explains this need. She says,
There is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.
Lamott then goes on to deliver the bad news: you have to make time to do this. It’s not easy. Not when a baby is crying, meals need to be made, and there’s a job to be done–one that pays the bills, if your writing doesn’t.
It’s not gender specific, either, this constant challenge to justify the time and space, physically and mentally, to write. Both men and women struggle to balance writing with the rest of their lives. I cracked up at this statement from David Cameron in Talking Writing:
I have a job, a wife, kids. Establishing space to write feels less like a regimented discipline and more like a search for illicit sex: Just get it when you can.
I can relate. My fantasies have nothing to do with handsome strangers and everything to do with holing up with my Macbook for a couple of hours at a library table or a corner of my favorite coffeeshop.
As if to prove my point about just how difficult it is to find time and space to write, my 6-month-old son, while I was typing this blog post, grabbed my water glass from the coffee table and spilled it. Writing time over. For now.