Yesterday my blog turned two hundred posts old. As milestones go it’s not earth-shattering by any means, but it did get me to thinking about some of my early posts, (the ones that actually had a focus anyway, when I started this blog I was just doing it for fun.)
One of them was a sort of introduction to myself and why I was a writer. I mentioned in the post that I had written six long-form works of fiction and even though I wasn’t published yet, I had made a promise to myself that I would keep writing until I was published or I died, whichever came first.
And as I recall someone was actually encouraged by that. Which got me to thinking. Are you people insane?
Wait, don’t answer that. I really don’t want to know what medications you’re on. Just, you know…keep that to yourself.
But I mean, seriously. This is not a good thing. Writing is not a wonderful Mecca of muses and money. (See what I did there? See that alliteration? I’m just a tiny bit proud of that.)
Writing is hard. And there’s no promise that you’ll get anything out of it.
By my estimates I’ve spent close to two thousand hours writing at this point in my life. I’ve worked very hard on books that will probably never see the light of day. I’ve banged my head against the wall trying to get wordcounts for stories that just didn’t end up working. And for all of that I have yet to be paid one cent for my work.
And then there’s the depression. I saw a statistic recently that said that writers suffer from depression more often than people in any other profession, and I can believe it. I’ve gotten over a lot of it now, but in those days when I was trying to get an agent for my first book, and I kept getting rejection after rejection I felt lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.
I would ask myself, “What are you thinking, Albert? You’ve read all those hacks that turn to putting their work out online. You know it’s all garbage. That’s what you’re writing: garbage. You call yourself a writer?” And so on.
And then came that fateful day when I threw up my hands and said, “I don’t care if what I’m writing is garbage. I’m going to keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it, until I’m published. Or dead.”
My point is this: this may not be a good thing. I may get to the end of my life with millions of words to my name and not a single one of them in print. I may die, having written nothing but garbage.
I tweeted recently about how writing is like a drug, and quite a few people got a kick out of it, but it’s really true. It hooks you in and makes you feel all happy at first, but then comes the realization that this thing is slowly taking over your life. You tell yourself you can stop anytime, but in reality you’re stuck in a quagmire of your own design.
So I’m writing this as a warning. There’s no hope for me. I’m already too far gone. But you should get out while you still can. There are no riches here, no deep sense of fulfillment. Nothing but the all-consuming flames of passion.
Turn back. Do something else, anything else.
And if you can’t…well, then you’re a writer.
May God have mercy on your soul.