Thursday, February 27, 2014

When the Writing Life Doesn't Make Sense

You know that thing that happens when you look at a word for too long and it stops making sense?

I hope you do, because I'd hate to be the only one. I'll show you what I mean. Take an ordinary word like, say, sleigh. Type it on a line all by itself, like this:


Now stare at it for awhile. Mumble it under your breath about six times. Maybe after awhile it begins to lose its meaning and its shape. Is it really spelled like that? Should it be spelled slay? Really a silly sort of word if you think about it...What does it mean again?

Okay, so maybe I'm alone with this phenomenon and the Sisterhood of the Evil Writers will send the straightjacket guys after me. (Speaking of which, straightjacket is one of those words. The longer you look at it the weirder it gets). And maybe the guys in white coats should come calling, because sometimes its not just words that lose meaning for me but the whole act, practice, and reason for writing itself.

Have you ever had a morning (or an afternoon or evening) where you sat down to write and asked yourself, "Why am I doing this again?" Maybe it all felt pointless for a minute. Here you are, spending all of this time writing this story/poem/novel and maybe the whole thing is shit. Maybe nobody anywhere on the face of the planet will ever read it. And if that's the case, then why on earth are you wasting your valuable time?

Maybe the world would be better off it you weren't a writer. Your house would be cleaner. Your kids and your partner would get more attention. The cat wouldn't have to sit on the keyboard in order to get a little petting. You could put all your creative energy into finding world peace or cure for male pattern baldness or a way to remove hair without shaving.

I'll confess there have been a few times where the thought of giving up writing flitted through my head like some deformed butterfly. Once or twice I've even entertained the prospect long enough to think it made some sense.

And then I don't write for a couple of days and I turn into some sort of demon zombie spawn. When that happens, the only cure is writing.

Some days I'm not sure whether writing is a blessing or a curse, but then I suppose maybe it can be both. The double edged sword of the gods - curse or blessing, depending how you use it. And the whole internal debate is totally pointless. Sleigh is a perfectly valid word. Quitting isn't an option.

Pointless or not, the only thing to be done is to go on.


  1. It's not just you. ABOUT tripped me up for a while. Stared at it too long once, I guess. And it's not just you wondering if this whole thing is pointless. Some days I'm not even sure I remember how to write - sitting here banging away at the keyboard producing what I'm sure are totally meaningless sentences strung into something not even a bird would want lining the bottom of its cage. But you're also right that quitting isn't an option - not a long term one at any rate. All you can do is forge ahead and hope. =o)

  2. Not just a word. Today's one of those days I got lost in fog every few paragraphs. A whole entire day to edit one chapter, ARGH! Yeah, that's enough to make me think there's not much of a difference between writing and waterboarding.


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