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Is Writing a Choice?

Writer friend: I would never choose to be a writer.

Me: I don’t know what I would choose if I had the choice.

Writer friend: Hard to say… we never got one.

Thus began a time of reflection for me, and a change in my answer. A writer, at the core of it, is someone who needs to put their thoughts into written form. Millions of writers out there will never write a book, but faithfully keep journals. And for many of us, there isn’t a viable choice.

Is Writing a Choice?It’s so much a part of who I am that, if I wasn’t a writer,  I would not be me. What would I decide if presented with a choice to be or not to be a writer? I’m not talking about being an author or a novelist. I’m talking about the fundamental need to put pen to paper—something I need as much as food or water. If I could choose to strip this compulsion away, to be free of both the pleasure and the pain, would I do it?

What kind of me would I be if I wasn’t someone who processed life with ink and paper? What might I offer the world if not my words?

The answer is that I don’t know. It’s like asking who I would be if I’d had different parents or grew up in a different country. It seems impossible to say.

What makes a writer or a dancer or an athlete? What makes an artist or musician? Not talent. There are very talented people out there who have no desire to pursue what they can do well. What is it that makes us spill our emotional and mental guts onto paper time and time again? What is it about us that leaves us a jumbled mess if we don’t drain our minds into written words?

Not all of us care to write for publication. And for those who do, not all of us find writing to be effortless. In fact, many of us struggle with one aspect or another and really need to put forth effort in terms of writing stories. For some, the draft is effortless. For others, revisions are fun. Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.

We are writers, but when writing things to share, we also need to care about craft. Would someone who was not an innate writer work so hard at it? Would they find the same levels of joy and satisfaction?

I was born a writer, the same way I was born with lungs and limbs and personality. Who I am and how I developed was certainly influenced by my environment, but not created by it.

The few times I tried not to write, I was utterly miserable, confused, and a jumble of thoughts and emotions.

I am who I am in part because I am a writer. I’ve never known anything different.

As my friend said, we weren’t given a choice.

I can live with that.


If you were given the choice to write or not write, which would you choose? How do you think your life would be different?

14 thoughts on “Is Writing a Choice?

  1. To write would be my choice (though I’ve recently published two books) and I would die if I didn’t write or hadn’t written those books. 🙂 For some of us, it’s our daily bread/medicine.

  2. I write because i love to read and i want to create things that others will love to read, to share my passion. Having said that, as long as there were others who were writing amazing things i wanted to read, i could survive without writing. Music is where i suffer if i go without. Singing for me is the same as breathing. Go too long without doing it, and it feels like i am doing irreparable damage to myself.

    • Naomi, I think that’s the beautiful thing about knowing other artists. I can understand how important singing is to you by simple correlation. I think that’s why friendships with other creatives are so helpful. Who else can really understand?

      • That’s exactly true. My best friend is an artist and we are both huge book geeks (although we tend to read different genres) we go to literary festivals together and to flea markets to find inspiration for our creative work. She makes the most amazing decorative cakes. We inspire each other even though we are so different.

  3. If ever forced to make the choice, I will always choose to write. Writing is the only way I can connect with people. During that dark period where I did not write or interact with other authors, I felt as though I was in a box, shut away from the rest of the world. I was utterly alone. It is through writing that I am able to establish a kinship with others. I don’t want to lend a single thought to the situation of not being a writer.

    Writing keeps me from being completely alone.

  4. Beautifully said, Robyn. This post is interesting because I was thinking what a talented writer my husband is — intelligent, eloquent, funny.

    However, he doesn’t feel COMPELLED to write the way I do. I can’t not write. It’s who I am. Despite all the anguish that comes with writing, I’m so grateful I can say what I need to say, as well as enlighten, entertain and change others. Great food-for-thought!

  5. Hi Robyn. For me, writing is like solving a puzzle someone gave me. Except, they put all their pieces in a baggie. Not only do I not know what picture I’m trying to put together, I’m not sure if they gave me all the pieces. Someday, I will find out what it looks like, and whether I am missing anything. Silent

  6. I love writing — really I do. But damn do I hate it, too. Writing, to me, seems to operate on the basis of quid pro quo: We have to give to receive. Want to write words that make your readers feel? Yeah, you’re going to have to bleed yourself all over the page.

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