“Writers don’t like to write; they like to have written.”
I’ve heard this quote very recently from two unrelated sources, and I initially thought it was deep and profound. Upon further reflection, though, I’ve decided it’s hogwash.
Yes, it’s true that a lot of the joy of writing is found in the accomplishment of having written something. But the same can be said of any number of things. For example, I like to have weeded my garden. I like to have worked out. I like to have planned a healthy menu for my family, done all the shopping and prepared a delicious and nutritious gourmet meal.
Unfortunately, my garden looks like I’m actually trying to farm dandelions and twitch grass. I am fat. And excuse me while I pop some frozen pizzas into the oven.
Yes, I’m proud of myself when I’ve finished my semi-annual burst of gardening. I love the feeling of shoving my exercise DVD back into the cupboard with a loud “Take that, Jillian Michaels!” And I know that when I put my mind to it, I can make a chicken pot pie that would make the Pioneer Woman weep with envy. I like to have accomplished those things. But they don’t define who I am. They seem to just consume way too much time that I’d rather spend on way more important things. Like debating about which descriptive words best portray my deepest feelings. (You can see that “hogwash” won out over “baloney” in today’s battle.)
The difference between writing and all the other stuff that I should do is that the other stuff isn’t really on my mind unless I’m actually doing it. I don’t lie awake at night obsessing about which weeds I should pull first. I don’t stand in the shower mentally rehearsing my work-out routine. And I don’t sit and stare at a blank page on my computer just willing the perfect menu plan to formulate in front of my eyes. I can actually (and do frequently) make it until 5 PM before something clicks in my mind that “Oh yeah, it’s my night to make supper for the six of us – just like it is every single day!”
Another difference is that I can easily talk myself out of doing all the other stuff I should be doing. In fact, even when I’ve done all the other stuff I should do, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything that day if I haven’t had any time to sit and write. On the other hand, I can spend a whole day perfecting one page (or even one paragraph!) to the exclusion of all other chores and if I’m satisfied with that page (or paragraph) by bed-time, then I feel like my time was well-spent. Even a well-crafted status update is like Nicorette; it’s enough to take the edge off so I can sleep at night.
And so I submit my modification of the quote: Writers don’t like to write; they need to have written.
P.S. Maybe the Nicorette analogy is a poor one. I don’t know. I’m blatantly ignoring the 10 Commandments for Writers and just assuming that you don’t know any better and therefore can’t correct me.