|The pencil rules you! You obey the pencil.|
Intro and Part 1
Part 2- Chesslectric Boogaloo
Part 3- The Search for Sporadic
Part 4 Live Free or Write Hard
Part 5- The Expense Strikes Back
Part 6- The Half Blood Prints
Part VII: The New Blood
Congratulations! Your life of pain awaits!
So here we are...at the end of our journey.
And you have come through all the assurances that you don't have to write without breaking into tears and thanking your computer screen for permission. Because it really is okay not to write. Really.
But not you. You want to write. None of our stops along the Highway of Moderation suited you. You're going all in, baby! All motherfucking in!
You actually like writing. You don't dread every moment you do it like some terrible burden. You don't spend your days making up excuses for why you can't possibly write or sabotaging yourself.
You're not just writing because you're good at it. You're definitely not just doing it because someone said you were good at it and you just want to be exceptional at something (anything). You don't sort of vaguely resent the burden of being good at something you don't particularly enjoy, but fettered to the idea that you have to pursue it because that's what people do when they have talent. The act of writing itself makes you happy or at least is like scratching a persistent itch.
You aren't just being an unrealistic dreamer about how writing will be your ticket to fame. You're not just doing it because you have fantasies of being a writer. You don't think you're going to tool out your "novel" in a few months and then kick back in the French Riviera living the glamorous life of a writer, doing the talk show circuit and having enraptured fans buy you drinks. You know that to be a day job, writing will consume day job effort (shocking, I know) or even more, and that all the writers you admire pumping out books with enough frequency to be full-time novelists are probably putting in 60+ hour weeks that definitely involve writing when it "feels like a chore." You have a realistic sense that you won't be a "weekend warrior" writer who makes career-caliber accolades.
You want to work at writing and improve. You don't just want to write when a capricious flight of fancy moves you, but actually when it's tough. It is a matter of discipline and improvement. This is something you care about enough to get better at and put some effort into and not just do when you feel like it.
You don't want to do it like a million people around the world do their hobbies that make them happy. This isn't intramural sports or a passionate pastime. You don't want some fucking loser with a "butterfly collection;" you want to "be an entomologist." (If you know what I mean--wink wink.) You want to make money from fiction--though that will undoubtedly require a much, much higher time and energy commitment. You may get pleasure from writing, but you are no longer writing for pleasure. It's a job now. But you don't simply want a job writing--for there are hundreds of ways to ply that skill into a trade--but you want a job doing creative writing. You don't care that this means you will have to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry and spend a lot of time and effort doing things that aren't actually writing (like promotion and marketing).
You don't just want writing to provide you with sideline money--a few dollars here or there for the creative efforts of a weekend or the trickle of cents for a weekly blog. You want real money. Pay the bills money. Quit your day job money. Be "An Artist" money. Fuck that pansy ass shit. Sure, it's going to mean that writing goes beyond a hobby, beyond a part-time job, beyond most full-time jobs and into the realm of your job and your hobby rolled into one with a dash of your free time thrown in for good measure. But that's okay, because that's how much you like writing.
Stopping doesn't even feel like an option. Stopping is what would actually make you miserable.
Congratulations. The normal train just pulled out of the station without you.
Wrinkly old dude: "Young fool. Only now...at the end...do you understand."
Oh, you're in good company, don't get me wrong. Even the threesome-obsessed snark-o-tron you're reading right now joins you in your complete obsession, but there is no bellwether by which you are a normal person with normal interests anymore. You are looking at normal in the rear view mirror, and it is waving farewell like the folks seeing off the Titanic. The time and energy professional novelists and full-time creative writers put into writing is basically...well, not to put too fine a point on it...unhealthy. They are completely obsessed and you want to be one of them.
Writers like these don't have well balanced lives. They don't have a healthy measured approach to writing. It is a complete, undeniable obsession. They write for more hours a day than most people spend at full-time jobs and then read for the rest. Many writers have dreadful social lives, can't maintain relationships, work only enough to pay the most essential of bills and live lives of paupers so that they can write more. In fact, their lives greatly resemble drug users in many ways.
It can be problematic to talk about things this way and I'm sensitive to that, but in a lot of ways, you have an addiction, and your drug of choice is writing.
Fortunately it won't do the kind of immediate, obvious damage as drinking or gambling or even the horrible long-term damage of something like a shopping addiction. Rather it is more along the lines of being a workaholic: an addiction that drives some of your life forward while eroding other parts. Still, you have a problem. You may not want to think of it as a problem, and that's okay. However if I told you that someone spent hours a day doing (an activity), that (this activity) impacted other aspects of their lives significantly, that they thought about (this activity) obsessively when they weren't doing it, made financial decisions that enabled them to do (this activity) as much as possible, and that they would fall into depression if they didn't do (this activity) for more than a couple of days, you wouldn't have any trouble recognizing that the person was addicted to (this activity).
I don't mean to trivialize the chemical versions or the ones that do damage.
This isn't something to be proud of. You haven't won the lottery. You aren't a better person. You are unbalanced, probably a bit (or more) unhealthy, and your obsession may make functioning in other aspects of your life difficult or even impossible. This isn't a boon to your life as a well adjusted human being. You will spend your life on the knife's edge of a socially acceptable form of self-harm in overdoing it, and I really suggest you pay close attention. (2019 Edit-- No really. TRUST me.) No one who really knows you will envy you--only those who romanticize what they can't see will decide that your lifestyle is glamorous and you are to be emulated.
You are much closer to a pariah than a paragon.
This is the drive that has made good artists since the cave paintings of Lascaux. This is the obsession that has led to the greatest works of all time. Every artist you love was a little overboard and a lot obsessed. You have a choice to conquer your addiction (It's really okay. Really.) or to embrace it and follow it as far as it will take you. Down the rabbit hole for certain, but possibly also to the peaks of your imagination and to beauty you thought you could only dream about. Say goodbye to a normal world and your normal life. Find lovers who accept your addiction--even enable it. Find friends who don't mind your poverty. Find jobs that let you write.
Let go of all hope of being normal; you aren't.
But from the dogged obsession of your drive, you may yet create something extraordinary.