Writing as Madness

I’ve been reading some articles on “how to become a writer,” and I am seeing a very definite trend.  Over and over I keep reading that writing is a compulsion.  It is a mantra repeated over and over that writers write because they are compelled to, as though they have no choice.  Writing is not a talent or a skill, but rather it is a form of insanity.  I have seen people say they write because they have to, as though they were prisoners of their own ability.  Oddly, I saw this same argument used for teachers while in a university education program.  At any rate, this notion of a profession being less a profession and more a quasi-mystical calling is a strange sort of trap to fall into.

It isn’t enough to be talented or skilled.  It isn’t enough to have a natural aptitude for writing.  No, apparently you have to be driven by the unseen forces of your own tormented mind in order to be a good writer.

I do not like this line because it serves to discourage potential authors from giving it a go.  It’s a cheap justification for convincing other people to not even bother trying, and a weird sort of self-flattery for the person using the argument.

My advice is this:  ignore all the advice telling you how hard it is to write and how you have to be compelled to write (the implication being if you aren’t crazy with obsession, you can’t be a good writer).  Write what you want to write, if you want to write.  It does take practice to be any good, but so does walking, working, and everything else you do in life.  Put some thought into what you want to do with your writing, and make a headlong mad dash for it.  Be confident, and do not be discouraged by rejection, criticism, and certainly not by some person telling you that you have to be crazy (or divinely inspired) to write.

And who knows, maybe your writing does suck, or maybe it’s brilliant, but you never would have known if you were convinced not to try by someone trying to add some sort of strange mystique to their own image.

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