But that’s not the most painful thing. No, the most painful thing about writing is the after-effect of this: that feeling of disappointment and emptiness in yourself for your lack of productivity. And this leads me on to my main point: while I still stand firmly by last week’s post where I said that anyone should be allowed to become a writer, it does come with a big fat warning stamp, written in big red writing: ‘The Writer’s Curse’.
Let me explain. Writing is the ultimate hobby, I think. There are literally no limitations, only the ones that your own imagination sets. You can write anywhere, at anytime, and it’s either ludicrously cheap to do or it’s basically free. And my word, is it fun. I don’t understand why everyone in the world isn’t a writer, at least on a fictional level. It is your ideas manifested into the written word. You create your own universe, your own rules, your own stakes, and as far your concerned real living and breathing characters to inhabit the pages. And then you move and progress things however you wish. I belive I’ve said this before, but writing is like having a movie set, a crew and cast with an unlimited budget and unlimited time constraints. When you’re a writer, you can go anywhere.
And this is how writing sinks it’s teeth in. I remember when I first caught the writing bug: I couldn’t stop writing whenever the chance took me. I would carry sheets of scrap paper around in my schoolbag and pull them out to write whenever the chance took me. I filled an entire box file with scribbled-down half ideas, short stories, pictures, maps…everything in my brain spooled onto paper. Whenever I was away from writing, I itched to get back into it.
During that time, I remember feeling extremely at peace with myself. My usually short temper had suddenly elongated, calm in the knowledge that I could always turn to doing some satisfying writing when I got the chance. But most importantly, I never felt bored again. Got a spare moment? Twiddling your thumbs? Well, I could just do some writing. Because it was such a simple thing to do, I didn’t have an excuse not to do it.
But then real life caught up with me. Exams, University, jobs, budgeting for food, taxes, bills…writing couldn’t fill all of my spare time forever. And sometimes, after a long day of work, you are so utterly exhausted that you just want to relax. And so, over the years I have had long, dry spells where I have basically written nothing. Not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that being a 20-something saw a lot of changes in my life that continue to this day. Moving to and living in Japan didn’t happen overnight.
And here’s where the Writer’s Curse crept up on me: just because I wasn’t writing didn’t mean I stopped being a writer. Because of how ubiquitous writing is, it’s not like other pastimes that you can pick up, do for a while then put down and forget about until the next day. I don’t think a day has gone by for the past 14 years where I haven’t thought about my writing and my projects and ideas for at least a little bit, and that makes the days where I do nothing about it feel so disappointing. With the Writer’s Curse, you will always cimb into bed on those days you do nothing or very little, hating yourself for it. “Why couldn’t you have gotten some work done on the train home from work?” you’ll say to yourself. You won’t even forgive yourself for the times you weren’t thinking about writing: “You could have been cooking up some new and wonderful ideas!” You are never allowed to really, truly relax or be bored.
You will always feel a little restless, those projects and raw ideas nagging at the back of your brain for attention. Even if you have paid your dues for the day and pumped in some hours of work on your writing, you’ll still never feel really satisfied: you’ll just go to bed that night feeling as though you could’ve done more.
Once a writer, always a writer. It is a wonderful, elegant yet simple thing, and to this day I genuinely get a kick out of doing it. But because of that, if you aren’t doing it, you will feel rotten about yourself. So, if you are the kind of person who enjoys their relaxation or values their spare time for other pursuits, I strongly advise you to beware the Writer’s Curse before you even begin. Because if your start, you may never be completely free from it.