I’ve sounded off many times about the difficulties I’ve had with writing. Talking, for example about my mean Scottish editor, and my struggle to stop editing while I write. But I don’t very often write about what I love about writing.
Maybe that’s because it took me an awfully long time to even like it a little bit. I may have caught the reading bug early — at 10 years of age, as I recall — but I resisted the writing bug as if it were smallpox. I’d been immunized against it! I was in my late 40s before I was smitten.
Not that I couldn’t write. I did it, successfully enough to be published in national magazines and to get a job at a daily newspaper. I just found the work itself torturous.
As a way to try to make it less difficult, I started writing a blog in January 2006. And if that weren’t enough, I wrote my book, 8 1/2 steps to writing faster, better, in 2008.
Producing this book should have been a horror show for someone who disliked writing as much as I did. But I found ways to make the task bearable and then, finally, enjoyable. Paradoxically enough, it was taking on the fearsome task of producing the book that, in the end, caused me to fall in love with writing.
I’m not sure whether psychologists have an explanation for this, but perhaps it’s a form of cognitive dissonance — you can’t possibly believe you’d spend so much time on something you disliked. Whatever the cause, I now find that writing is one of the jobs that makes me the happiest.
How do I love it? In honour of Valentine’s day, let me count the ways:
- I love the way I can learn things about myself and about others simply by writing. I don’t outline because I don’t want to “figure everything out” before I write. The “figuring out” is the joy of writing.
- I love the rhythm of words, their pulse, their beat. Finding exactly the right word is particularly rewarding. No walking when I mean sauntering or ambling.
- I love simile, metaphor, and personification. I aspire to use figurative language in the easy way that French chefs use butter.
- I love onomatopoeia. These are magical words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions to which they refer: splish-splash, plop, warble, giggle, growl, flutter, woosh, gasp.
- I love walking through the treed streets of my part of town, and, occasionally, ducking into the forest that’s four blocks from my home. For me, walking inspires thinking and thinking inspires writing.
- I love the way writing allows me to be self-employed. This means I can be home when someone needs to come to repair the dishwasher, or (when COVID isn’t turning everything on its head) I can go for coffee at the neighborhood café in the middle of the day.
- I love having the chance to polish my writing — to take something I’ve produced that’s unclear or murky and shape it to make it better. It reminds me of being a 15-year-old and learning to make bread. Sometimes it was sticky and messy, yes, but ahhh, the smell of fresh baked bread when you’re done…
- I love collecting stories — my own, from friends, from acquaintances — and using them in my writing.
- I love looking back at what I’ve written in the past. Sometimes I’m shocked. Did I actually write that? Who was I? How did I do that?
It is certainly true that writing is a demanding partner. It requires time. It demands patience. It insists on commitment. But it gives so much back in return.
If you haven’t already fallen in love with writing, I hope that one day, you will, too. ∞