I didn't ask to be a writer. 

As Lady Gaga says, I was born this way. When I emerged from the womb clutching a fountain pen and a fifth of absinthe, my parents said, "Oh crap. It's a writer". They knew what they were in for: 18 years of insufferable know-it-all-ism and a kid who talks exclusively in rhyming couplets. (What? It was cute for the first ten years.)

When people say they enjoy writing, I say "Are you sure you're doing it right?" Writing is not fun, or easy, or glam. It's like that old saying about war: long stretches of boredom punctuated by extreme moments of more punctuation. My typical day? Ten hours straight of agonizing over the Oxford comma and lying down a lot.  Writing is not for wusses. Just look at Hemingway. All that running-of-the-bulls and Spanish Civil War stuff he did? That wasn't machismo. He was just trying to get out of doing a rewrite of The Sun Also Rises.  

I enjoy writing about as much as I do breathing. Do I take pleasure in breathing? Not particularly, but consider the alternative. I couldn't not  be a writer. It's who I am. Oh sure, every now and again I think of doing something less crazy-making, like spelunking. (And just now, writing this, I had to go down the rabbit hole to Google the etymology of "spelunking".  See how this works?) 

Yet somehow, the hours spent whittling words down to the bone, the agonies of self-doubt, the fruitless chases after perfection--all bring with them a kind of grace.You capture what a client wants to say--before they know they want to say it. A client's customer gives your radio script to her husband as an anniversary gift. A website you write in New York helps a child in the Sudan. You think of all the little instances where your words have made a difference to a business, a cause, or a life. And all the late nights, the endless drafts, and yes, even the tears, fall away. You are left with a realization: that 26 tiny letters of the alphabet can hold within them the entire universe. It is a gift, and it is a miracle, and it happens to you every single day. 

Writing is like a cat. It doesn't come when you call it. It pretends to ignore you. And some days, after all your efforts, it coughs up a hairball. But it's yours. So you feed it, and nurture it, and take pride in it. And god knows, you whine about it. But secretly? You love that stupid cat.

When I was starting out, I asked the author of Charlotte's Web if I should go into advertising. He said, and I quote, "Hell to the NO, girlfriend. Get out now!" Did I follow the great man's advice? Thankfully no. Why not? Because Mr. White would be the first person to tell you: you don't choose to be a writer. It chooses you.


Whether you like it or not. 

 

Do you have a project coming up? Let's talk. Contact me or email amybown@gmail.com