There is something about the love of writing that I think some authors who publish professionally may be losing out on. I’ve been reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, and also just read a blog post about writing by a popular author, wherein they literally torture themselves in the writing process. True, they make their living by writing, and I have a day job, but it truly seems that they find writing almost physically painful. How can that be a good thing?
I realize that once one has started a series, as the popular author has, one has to come up with the next one. But I think I’d much rather be like Harper Lee and never publish again, then to struggle to churn out a sequel and grow to hate what I do.
For me, it is much more painful to share what I have written. It is truly your self, your real self, that is exposed there on paper and when people criticize that, it is excruciating. On the other hand, when someone connects or praises what I have written, it is exhilarating.
I have read many of Madeleine L’Engle’s autobiographical books, where she talks about being compelled to go and write in her study. It is more like she is driven there by her muse, she cannot not go and write. That was how it was for me as a child. I wrote madly until the muse let me go, sometimes the story was finished, most the time it was not. While I was writing it was as if a storm engulfed me, the real world disappeared and only reappeared when I was finished.
That doesn’t happen for me any more. I could only write when my life was in place, with my family in the house in the background. Once I was on my own I was terribly lonely. I set up all my research books on the kitchen table and set to work and nothing came. It would have broken me then to have forced myself to write. It would have been wrong somehow.
In my classroom, after we have finished our mini lesson and done some assigned writing, I give them the option of reading or writing. Those who are inspired keep writing, sometimes for a lengthy time. Those who are not go and read something they have chosen. I think it is a good compromise.