I don’t know when the romanticized view of a writer’s life or life with a writer was brought into existence, but it is a thing of fiction and wish-thinking, as I will demonstrate.
Writers often capture the hearts and minds of the public and have done so throughout history. There is something almost spiritual about the written word that generates a sense of camaraderie between a writer and those readers who feel the writer saying what they’ve always felt and wanted to say but just couldn’t. Writing often exposes the mind, heart, and even soul of the writer and adds to the illusion of bliss and stimulation assumed to exist in a life spent amongst books, laptops, ink, and parchment.
Writing is a major preoccupation of my life, but it is not my sole form of income. I still have, dare I say it, a ‘real’ job. But this means that the majority of writing I do happens after the day’s slog in the office.
My wife (an obsessed reader who has read—cover to cover—every book I’ve ever heard of except for the bible), initially thought life with someone who writes would add an additional level of stimulation to her life. But she has come to realise that it is much more of an intrusion. Luckily, my wife is very understanding, and has accepted the eccentricity of the writer in me and tolerates his ongoing presence in our lives.
Few people see the borderline alcoholism that most writers suffer from. Almost every writer worth reading smokes and drinks, but I only drink—meaning I have to put in extra effort to make up for the missing cigarettes. However, in recent months, I’ve cut down tremendously and prefer to only reach that buzz that quickens inspiration rather than the comatic trance I used to aim for.
Many women expect candle-lit dinners with riveting discussion about literature were they to ever date a writer. But the fact is that many a writer will mentally wander off mid-conversation as they try to construct another perfect phrase or argument for future use. The notepad and pen used to jot these momentary strokes of genius are, annoyingly, always nearby.
Many women fantasize about intense lovemaking sessions followed by the reading of poetry and the mutual quoting of lovely phrases. But the reality is that many a writer simply rolls off his disappointed lover as he admits defeat to the early onset of erectile dysfunction brought about by a sedentary lifestyle and disastrous diet.
Many women even imagine a holiday with a writer will be particularly spiritual as together they absorb every experience and later relate their experience to each other with adjectival whoredom. But the reality is that the writer will be content with the confines of the hotel as he sits and writes about enjoyable activities without the need to personally and practically verify them.
I suffer from all of the above, though at varying frequencies. The worst times for my marriage are when two (or more) of these conditions manifest in my personality at once. I have both the emotional and physical scars of a person obsessed with writing. My image is to that of the writing profession as the longhaired, tattooed, and drug addicted guitarist is to rock music. The only question I have is, am I a writer because of these scars, or did the process of writing scar me in this particular way? I can’t say, and I don’t know if I want an honest answer to that question.
What I have noticed is the obsession is growing. I feel it all the more urgent to write about certain topics and get going with several books I’ve been hoping to write and publish. This obsession is now at a point where I am even considering giving up my corporate job and living off my savings until the first book, fuckup or top-seller that it may be, is done and submitted to the publisher.
I now finally understand what Christopher Hitchens meant when he said that writing is not so much something you want to do but something that you feel you HAVE to do. And for anyone so inclined, they are bound to pick up a few scrapes and bruises along the way.
The resulting emotional wounds cause by the pen have their own rewards, for much of music, comedy, drama, and philosophy makes no sense unless one has endured a few personal struggles … or exorcised some of one’s own demons.
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