Life Without Writing

Today I stopped to ponder what my life would be without writing.

It would be very pleasant indeed.

For instance, I would not spend so much time alone in a small room. My shoulders would be less hunched. My abdominals would be stronger. I would do yoga. Or learn to walk a tightrope.

I might make a real breakfast, instead of getting up only to sit down again. My first meal wouldn't be over the keys (well, in the keys, sometimes).

I would look out the window more. Right now I keep the shades drawn. Views are too distracting. They are often better than words. I would finally cop to this.

I would talk more with my friends. I would go out for more lunches. I would be able to talk to them about the tightrope-walking, which would interest them. In the past, not so many of them have been interested.

I would read more. I wouldn't have this dreadful feeling that I should be doing something else. I wouldn't worry if a book is better than mine. I wouldn't treat it like a fortune cookie, for god's sake. I would simply read it.

I would watch tv. After the yoga. With my shoulders erect.

I wouldn't be tormented by plots that haven't happened and characters who don't exist. I would pay more attention to my family. I would pay more attention to my dogs.

My dogs would be better trained. My house would be cleaner. I might have a cushy job. My bank account would be fuller.

I would do things instead of write about them. I've always wanted to swim the English Channel. I've wondered if this is harder, and takes longer to work up to, than publishing a novel. I would find out.

My eyes might be better than they are now. Also, I would see everything I've been missing, staring at this screen. I would take fun vacations from whatever it was I was seeing too much of, the way some of my friends do. I would absorb more vitamin D from natural sources.

Of course, I might miss this dark room, a little.

And the words trying to arrange themselves improperly.

And me fighting them like Russell Crow in a Roman arena.

I might miss the sport, the blood-lust.

I might miss my unreal friends. They're even less interested in me than my real friends, but I have been so interested in them, so confounded by them and curious, so hungry after them, breakfast, lunch and dinner, it's made up for a great deal, I have to say. My characters and I would have to get a kind of divorce, I suppose. That wouldn't be pleasant.

I might miss the satisfaction of getting something right. Oh, yes. Perfectly. It does happen, sometimes. You wait and wait and wait for it to come to you, pacing back and forth on the French coast, as it were. And then it comes. Patience as a feat. Victory as pulling something from the gray, sludgy water and helping it stand.

I would miss my story. That shivering, exhausted thing. That thing that wants to give up the whole time, but I don't let it. Breathe. Pace yourself. Stroke. Now rest. Tread water. All right, that's enough. Set off again. Back you go.

I might lose all the stamina I've developed.

I might short-change my will.

I might miss something really good. Something like O Pioneers!

I don't know if the tightrope-walking would make up for this.

I could straighten my posture while I sit here.

I could get the dogs to stay while I type.

I really should get back to work.

Hand me that donut.



Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing.
Mylène said…
Hi Colleen! I'm up, eating, and at it!
"I would have this dreadful feeling I should be doing something else." Yes. You would.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like without writing, but in my case, I don't have to think about it too hard, because for years during the UH program, I didn't write. I know, I know, I was in a creative writing program and I wasn't writing. The irony is not lost on me. But there was a point where I got so broken down by all that workshopping and all that vague, unhelpful advice that I just thought I couldn't write. So I didn't. I could rationalize it to some degree because that was about at the point when I had to do comps, so I could argue that I was taking a break from writing to READ. And I did have lots and lots to read for comps. But for about two solid years, I didn't write creatively AT ALL, and I can tell you exactly how it was. It was great on the outside, but my soul died a little bit more each day, until by the time comps were over and I emerged from the funk, I didn't even know who I was. It was at that point that I met those two literary agents, and that day literally changed my life. I will write about it, if you all want to hear about it. It was truly a sea-change for me. Those agents woke me up to myself, and no matter what happens, I will always be thankful.
Mylène said…
"my soul died a little bit each day . . ." That's how it feels for me too, Kat, if for some reason I get cut off from the work. I am so sorry you had to go through that. I for one would like to hear about your "re-awakening." That will make a great post.

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