Notes From the Wasteland No. 31 ‘Can You Imagine Not Writing?’

One day you decide to stop writing. That’s it, you say. I won’t write another word ever again. Not a single word. I’m just going to find something else to do, anything other than write. I refuse to put the letters together one after the other any longer. I just won’t. I’ve got plenty of other things to do, you say. Plenty. I won’t have to worry, you say. There will be lots of other things I can put my mind to.

I never liked writing anyway, you say. It is just too hard to find something to say every day. I can’t stand staring at the blank screen, with the cursor blinking as it dares me to write something. I can’t stand the pressure I put on myself; to have ideas and develop them, connect thoughts and let them lead somewhere. I hate this process, you say. It makes me feel small and weak and helpless. It makes me wonder why I bother because even if I manage to string enough words together to make a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter or, even, here’s hoping, a novel, who will read it anyway?

And maybe that’s the point of all of this, the tick that makes the clock what it really is? Maybe the hate at the heart and, yes, it can be described that way, sometimes, always, not too often, never, maybe the hate at the heart of this conundrum is that we can’t always see why we do something, in this case, write, because we can’t always see who will read our writing. And this is a real reason for many people to stop, or, at least, question why they are writing in the first place.

So, the question isn’t really about what it would be like to not write ever again, because, for me, that would be impossible and absurd. Perhaps the issue here really is about whether or not we understand that by writing we are committing ourselves to a process which may be little more than any other form of regular exercise, like running, say, or cycling. Of course, writing may also be a process which is not like running, say, or cycling, but the fact of the matter is that when we run, or cycle, we do it for ourselves, unless we are amazingly lucky enough to be a professional runner or cyclist. And so for running, cycling, we can substitute writing for ourselves as a legitimate reason for writing in the first place.

Can’t we?

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