I’ve recently started a new job that’s eating into my writing time in a serious way. It’s interesting and very worthwhile work, but it’s not writing. It does make me wonder why I write and also whether I can actually do it again. When I’m not writing, I find that that part of my brain can ‘switch off’ and it’s hard to imagine it switching on again.
I usually try and avoid describing writing in too mystical a way, because I think writing and literature are romanticised far too often. Much of the essence of this blog is the effort to try to think about and understand how a piece of writing works, what are the specific, concrete details that enables it to have the effect that it does and how do they have that effect. Having said all that it’s also true that a story or a poem is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not enough to have great images, characters, dialogue, plot metaphors etc etc. There is a magic about it all coming together that means it is able to move you in a profound way.
For me, writing has an almost spiritual element to it, not in the sense that there is something supernatural about it, but that it works on a higher plane that can’t be described using just the language of emotions, cognitions, morality etc. It’s why the cry to produce more ‘socially aware’ or ‘feminist’ stories/ superheros/ dramas seems to miss the point. Writing isn’t about deciding what you want to say and then finding a convenient narrative container for it. Writing is about finding a great story that in some sense tells you, the writer, what it wants to say.
It’s also why talking about motivation to write is not the same as talking about motivation to go to the gym or study for an exam. It’s not about trying to achieve an objective (get slimmer/ toned/ a better job), the story is the end in itself. It’s worth it, because a world with more good stories in it is just a better world. Getting ‘motivated’ for me is about switching on the part of my brain that connects with that truth.