Dirty Laundry

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

Sometimes I love what I do. Sometimes the writing is fun and easy and free flowing.

But sometimes it isn’t.

David Rakoff (may he rest in peace) once said that writing was like having his teeth pulled out… through his penis. On the days when I am staring at my computer screen, racking my brain for ways to solve a Gordian-knotesque problem in my story, this is an accurate description of how it feels. And it is during these times that I ask myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? I could be rescuing kittens, or feeding the homeless, or teaching, or taking pictures, or cooking a tasty dinner, or sipping some wine and watching the sunset. Why am I torturing myself like this? Why I am pulling my teeth out through my penis?”

And then I’ll have a good day of writing. I’ll make myself laugh. Or I’ll get a letter from a reader who loved reading my books. Or a parent who’s son had never finished a book until he read Swim the Fly. Or a Tweet from someone who “was so sad when he’d read the last page of Call the Shots knowing that the series was over.”

All of this is not to say that I am such a gifted writer. I do what I do the best that I know how. It’s just that it can be a challenge to sit by yourself for so many hours, often throwing away whole swaths of your book, pages and pages that you rung from your addled brain, tossed in the trash because the story wasn’t working, wasn’t good, was trying too hard. And it’s nice to get those little yeses from the Universe, the little hellos from the outside world.

Right now the writing of my new book is going well but there were large portions of time (days, weeks, months) where I felt like I was trying to dig a hole in quicksand. It takes a lot of willpower to get back in that chair, boot up the computer, slip on the headphones and sink back into the story.

But I do it. Because on the days it is going well there is little else I’d want to be doing.