Have you ever actually stopped to think about why you write? I hadn’t, until I recently read “Liberating the Tortured Writer,” from Mindful Magazine. The writer recounted his tortured writer years of rejection, poverty and uncertainty as he struggled to become a writer. He had amassed a lot of negative mental habits, including
- A desperate need for some kind of approval: basing one’s self esteem on the opinions of others.
- Over identification with my work—mistaking my work for my actual life.
- A constant striving for a future moment that would be better than this one.
- An image of what I should or shouldn’t be achieving at any one time of my life.
- A clinging to suffering, an addiction to the highs and lows of it, including endless speculation on whether I was “good enough.” (Ben Craib)
This list (and we could all probably add to it) sounded too familiar. Why do we so often find the word “tortured” side by side with “writer”? Ask most writers of they have ever experienced anything from this list, and it would be the exception if they had not. So why do we torture ourselves so?
In my own writing, I have often wondered what drives me to write, if I am really doing it for myself or seeking some kind of approval I’m not consciously aware of (mommy issues?). I’ve also had trouble separating my writing from my life. Think about it: what would you be if you didn’t write? Are you what you do? I’m not sure I can even answer that.
I have to admit, as a writer, I do find myself striving for a future moment that might be better than this one, like dreams of the major book tour or a book-to-major-motion picture deal. I suppose that’s grasping, a very un-mindful way of being. As writers, we inherently are attached to outcomes – publication, admiration, respect – another very unmindful way of being.
The writer of the article eventually learned through mindfulness practice not to attach to the hope of success or fear of failure, but to simply live in the present and let the rest go. For myself, it’s a daily struggle, but on the days I’m feeling more tortured than grateful, I know it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate why I’m writing. If I ever cannot answer, “I write for the joy of writing,” then maybe I’ll know it’s time to take a break to rediscover my motivations.
I’d like to hear from you.
Why do you write?
Who would you be if you didn’t write?
What would you do with your time if you didn’t write?