My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus.
~ William S. Burroughs
Writing is a strange and dangerous calling.
I do mean calling. Like Burrough’s word virus, the craft of writing compels us to it in a way that is beyond our ability to resist.
A writer writes.
A writer who does not write inevitably descends into a booze, coffee, sex, nicotine and/or guilt-driven world of pain. Steven Pressfield has covered this ground well.
If you’ve got the touch, the way with words, I’m betting you understand what I’m saying. I’m also betting you’re nowhere near having it “together” as a writer.
Maybe you’re making a living at this word game, maybe not. Maybe you’ve got more readers, clients, and fans than you could ever want, maybe not. Either way, if you have the virus, you will not stop.
Problem is, even when things are “going well” on the page, things are not necessarily well with the writer. We are a small band of laborers working in a muddy field, unable to find the road through the fog.
The dangers of answering this call are immediately replaced with the difficulties of executing it, even for the stoics among us.
Remember, we’re talking about Burrough’s virus here. A virus cannot be killed, but it can be contained. Living with this one is often incredibly difficult.
Tell me if any of these hold a mirror to your own experience:
- You have the steady suspicion that you’re more fraud than writer
- You’d rather do anything, anything than sit down and write
- You look at your “body of work” and conclude that you have simply wasted years of your life
- You talk about writing more than you sit your ass down to do it
- The crushing guilt of not working “enough” has become almost too much to bear
- You stare at walls, floors and ceilings for extended periods of time, and then run to the television
- Your best work is brutally criticised, or worse, brutally ignored
- Despite all of this, you cannot stop writing
That last one is the ticket. It is also something like an answer.
There’s no fix here. In a way, you’re damned if you do your work, and damned if you don’t.
I only offer to open the doors of this little digital confessional to see who walks through with me.
Do you have this virus?
Are you often stumbling through the fog?
Go ahead and give it to me in the comments, any schemes, disciplines, or antivirals you’ve devised to live with this horribly sublime little bug called the word…
About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.