On Pleasure & Satisfaction
March 2, 2011
Years ago I was bitching about the whole writing/publishing thing to a woman I worked with and she said, "Do you enjoy writing?" I said, "Yes." And she said, "Then it's fine, isn't it?'
That's resonated for a long time and I'm inclined to say the real response to "It's fine, isn't it?" might actually be, "It's a hell of a lot more complicated than that."
I don't suppose it has to be. I just know that for me it is. Some of that is because I make a living as a writer and there's only so much time to go around and since I am a businessperson and family person and have other interests, when you start looking at how you're spending your time and what's eating into different segments of your life, you start weighing the "yeah-it's-fun" parts against the "is-it-carrying-its-weight" parts. I'm also one of those guys who thinks you need to occasionally ask yourself, "On your death bed are you going to be sorry you did or did not do this thing?" And that can be writing novels, exercising, staying at a job you don't like, taking guitar lessons, whatever. When you look back at your life from the grand old age of 101, will you say, "I really should have spent more time...." or "I really should have spent less time..."
Chief Grand Master Robert Dearman, the man who developed Sanchin-Ryu, the style of karate I study, noted at a workshop last fall that sometimes people say, "It's not fun any more." And his response actually is, "Of course it isn't. It's work. Work isn't fun all the time. But it can be fulfilling."
I think that's another factor you have to ask yourself about, too. In the long run, do I get something out of this, something that's less tangible than dollars and cents? Is that intangible something worth the time and energy investment?
One of the reasons I even bring this up is because I have a sense--in myself and others--that a lot of us who get involved more or less successfully in the arts often have a compulsion to do it--even if that compulsion doesn't exactly make sense. I've often thought writers who write every day in the face of so much opposition and lack of support probably suffer from a peculiar form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Whenever someone posts a "why do you write?" question and you read the responses, there's so many "I just have to" responses that it starts to sound like an OCD Support Group or a psychiatric convention.