You lie in your bed, trying to dose off. It is nearing two a.m. and tomorrow, you have to wake up at six to prepare for a calculus exam or to go to work. The equivalent of being flash-fried in lava. You need sleep, but then a new sentence crawls through your head. Hours ago, you might have fought it. You might have decided sleep was a better fate. But of course every night, you think these lines are genius so you wretch yourself up. Slough across the room like a survivor after a nuclear attack. You’ve left the file open because this has become tradition. You expect yourself to forgo sleep in the sake of transcribing words from your mind. Once you start, you may not stop. You may continue typing until morning. Banging out the first draft of a story or finishing a chapter or two.
You’re a writer.
Don’t worry too much if you display these symptoms. I’ve caught the bug too, a long time ago. Ever since I could hold a pencil and make the squiggly lines we call a language. Maybe this is supposed to make you feel better. Or maybe you’re smacking your head. How could you be so stupid? Who chooses a story over sleep, food, and going to the bathroom?
There comes an urgency about penning a line. A certain insatiable need. Like you’re so turned on by the thought of writing you can’t not help yourself. Satisfy your need. The urge then comes back again and again. Just in the form of lines, for me. I’ll lay awake and think of something clever. I must write it down. Once I succumb, there’s no stopping me. Am I comparing writing to something sexual, sensual? Sure. But it has less to do with the body, more with the mind. A hunger that compels you. Even when you topple over, retching up all the words, you rearrange that word vomit and try to glean a story from it. A moral.
Writers don’t get paid much. Any delusions about churning out books at your leisure will be shot down quickly. You don’t do it to eat, per se. You write for the sake of writing. Sometimes, a story or poem will contain social commentary. An overarching theme that defines human existence. A great story that we enjoy. But at the end of the day, we create art for the sake of art. No one needs writers the way people need doctors. Let’s face it: we’re purely here for entertainment. Yet even if no one read books (as sometimes might seem the case), we keep writing. Because writing is what we do.