Writing as an Obsession

by Laura Lentz

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

-Charles Bukowski

You must wake up and it will be the first thing on your mind, and the last thing as you go to sleep.  You must taste the letters that form words and swirl them around in your mouth like expensive, aged wine in the cellar of your imagination. You must get up and write, and then maybe you won’t eat because you will write some more.

Your children will say, mommy, mommy, daddy, daddy. Your lover will say what about me? Your car will say every engine needs to be turned over and your un-watered orchid will bloom anyway, reminding you they love to suffer. The birds will say, I am sharing your heart but you will only hear them as a tiny muse, off in the distance.

Some time you will take a shower, and perhaps be surprised when words slide off your skin, and into the drain where they swirl and disappear.  You get out of the shower and sit on your bed naked, dripping across your blue Italian carpet, trailing whole paragraphs with you, dripping them into your keyboard.

You are surprised and not surprised when fire comes out of you fingertips and melts the edges of your keyboard. You keep tapping them anyway, and much to your astonishment, your whole story starts to take shape. The mouth becomes a river, the river is rising, your horses try to cross but have to turn back.  Now it is night –  months have passed, maybe years. Your children have grown and maybe your partner is gone to marry an accountant. You stand up and are unsteady.

Now, you are truly ready to begin.

Writing HAS to be an obsession – if you are going to be a writer, go all the way.  If you have children you will teach them to follow their dreams by carving out time to create. If you have a partner, they will have to get used to you being up all night when the muse knocks on your door.

Philip Brautigam
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