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.
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.