Why I Shouldn’t Write

May 31, 2013

I read an article yesterday titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Write.” It’s exactly what you’d expect. As I read, however, I waited for a twist at the end that said something like, “Some of you wake up to colorful metaphors, the sun rises and brings with it glowing similes. Your waking thoughts are tethered to a stream of consciousness from the night before. You, dear friend, must write.” But it didn’t. Instead, it said, “Do us all a favor and please don’t write because even if you are one of the few who are good at it, you won’t get paid, you won’t finish and you’ll never feel satisfied. The end.”


I didn’t mind the brutal honesty. Lately, I require much less to hang up my stylus forever. Besides the sneaking suspicion that I suck at writing but none of my friends have the courage to tell me is the burden of perfectionism. If I can’t write something better than the last good thing I wrote then I won’t try to write at all. And even if I should be lucky enough to produce something decent it will still feel like a fluke despite any previous successes. So, I avoid writing altogether which according to the article is the right choice anyway.

Writing is hard. Every amazing writer agrees except for this one award-winning jerk who said that when writing gets hard it’s time to quit. I wonder if he feels this way about everything in life or just writing? Writing has always been hard. Words don’t effortlessly flow out of me. I work really hard for rhythm and context and honesty and character. For example, I’ve spent thirty-two minutes writing these last three paragraphs and chances are good that I won’t finish this because it’s junk.

The thrill of the moment when the story first explodes onto my imagination lasts about as long as a road-stand firework. The bang of the original idea just doesn’t have the sizzle to keep me going for very long, so it becomes work. A writing project that started out as a “love-child” ends up feeling like an orphan. I know people say that anything worth having is worth fighting for but I am beginning to wonder with writing.

I haven’t even mentioned editing. I edit and edit and edit somemore. Editing is endless. I have compared it to tweezing your eyebrows. If you don’t know when to stop, you won’t have anything left. After I am done obsessing over a piece, it looks like the Betty Davis of manuscripts. If there was a Compulsive Editors Anonymous, I would be president and would have changed the name several times.

My need to write has ruined perfectly normal parts of myself that previously existed in mindless simplicity. I once looked at a sunset and enjoyed its majesty but now I wonder how I would describe its glory to a blind person without using adjectives that involve color. The result? I don’t enjoy the sunset anymore. Instead, it’s become a private game of Words With Friends but I am my only friend. Writers are inward like that. Writing has stolen the blank look off of my face because there is always an unfinished story in my head. I can’t even write a simple email without an edit or two.

Not only has the burden of writing ruined my ability to simply observe without commentary, it has also wrecked my ability to read without opinion. My obsession with writing detail has robbed my ability to escape into a mediocre story. As I’ve become a better writer, it’s been tragic to discover that some of my favorite authors are average storytellers. It’s like realizing the truth about Santa or Lance Armstrong or the war in Iraq or that your aunt is really your mother and your grandmother has been raising you like a daughter. I used to read books with the same ease that my golden retriever drifts in and out of sleep; frequently, effortlessly. Now, I can’t read without noticing the punctuation or how new characters are introduced into a story. I used to read without concern over cadence but now I regularly toss books aside for a lack of timing or thoughtful sentence structure. I’ve lost the ability to read without editing.

I just want to watch a sunset again. I’d like to be able to read a cheesy romance. Is it too much to ask for an email just to be an email and not a novella?

The writer of the article is right; most people can’t write well. It’s hard work to break a concept into manageable ideas so that the reader doesn’t have to work as hard as you did to write it. It’s really hard. It’s even harder when you’re compelled to do it on everything from a text to a blog entry.

So, why do it?

I don’t know. It has something to do with my design because I’ve been writing ever since I became aware of myself. There’s also some kind of power involved. I need to summon emotion. I want you to feel something when you read what I’ve written. I want to flush as I write it and I want you to blush as you read it. I want you to feel something you’ve been aching to feel.

Are those reasons to stay up until 1:00am writing a story I won’t even like in the morning?

Again, I don’t know.

My life is hard. Why would I willingly introduce another hard element like writing into my already difficult circumstances?

A year ago I wrote the following:

The other day, after a friend called me a ‘wordsmith,’ I glowed for days like Moses after he saw God in the burning bush. I enjoy summoning words as much as an evangelist enjoys a good altar call. I love liberating starchy nouns and rigid verbs into more believable conversation. It’s like proselytizing Presbyterians into Charismatics. It brings me joy. I do realize, however, that simply thinking about words all day is not what makes one a good storyteller. Being able to pull those words out of the lofty space in my head and arranging them in a way that produces beauty and context is what makes one a writer. Writing is the thing that I do that makes me feel the most alive. I am able to give my grief, joy, hopes, rage, humor and imagination a dimension and depth that did not exist before I poured them out onto a piece of paper for someone else to hold and feel.

I fear I’ve lost that joy. Maybe this is what was meant by “when writing becomes hard, it’s time to quit.” If it’s true that writers must write, then maybe I won’t. If I truly am a writer then I won’t survive creative celibacy. My hands will start to tremble, my eyelid will twitch. I’ll drive by bookstores that aren’t on the way home. I will eventually be devastated by my writing wants and needs. But if I cannot NOT write then I choose that. It would be easier. Regardless, I need to know. Maybe the article is right: maybe I shouldn’t write.

So, I quit. My mind is a blank white page. With that said, I’m never writing again…..starting now.

One more thing, why is it my responsibility to write anyway? It’s not like I ask to wake up thinking about the best way to say “that” without using the actual word. Instead, I’ll use my newly found free time peeping into the pretend lives of people on Facebook.

Goodbye writing, I don’t need you anyway. Time will tell (or should it be, “and time will tell”?). Damn it.

Why don’t I ever know when to stop?” – Betty Davis


One Response to “Why I Shouldn’t Write”

  1. Melissa Salem said

    Ok I hope this is a joke ??? You’re not stopping are you? We need your voice out there!!!! We need YOU naked Protestant!

    Sent from my iPhone

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