I don’t remember when or why I started writing. I remember being in elementary school, in grade four or five, sitting at my desk and writing stories during class. And I also remember the time when I had to undergo a major open heart surgery, years later. Once the operation was over and right after I was brought into my room, I asked my brother for a pad and a pen, which I still keep as a memento. To put it simply writing brings me joy and makes me forget the cruelty of the world we live in.
In one of my books on writers, I read that at a summer conference on the novel at Harvard, one of the invited speakers gave a rather ostentatious lecture on the Responsibilities of the Novelist. Frank O’Connor, who was on the platform, found himself giggling every time the speaker uttered a new solemn idea. After the speech, he walked to the middle of the stage and said:
“All right, if there are any of my students here I’d like them to remember that writing is fun.”
“I have always found writing pleasant,” Foster says, “and don’t understand what people mean by ‘throes of creation.’”
“I write simply to amuse myself.” Alberto Moravia
Angus Wilson “started writing as a hobby.” James Thurber tells us that the act of writing “is either something the writer dreads or something he actually likes, and I actually like it. Even rewriting’s fun.” At another point he says, “When I’m not writing, as my wife knows, I’m miserable.”
So am I, as my husband can tell you. Then there are the writers who write one sentence at a time, and can’t write it until the sentence before has been revised. They are the “bleeders”. They are writers who dread writing.
When asked if he enjoys writing, William Styron, one of the bleeders, says:
“I certainly don’t. I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, writing is hell.”
But then he continues:
“I find that I’m simply the happiest, the placidest, when I’m writing… it’s the only time that I feel completely self-possessed, even when the writing itself is not going too well.”
So which one of these writers are you?