How writing isn’t a choice

There have been a bunch of kids in the Writers’ Guild classroom this week. It’s had me thinking about why I’ve made the choices I’ve made in my life. Mainly, the choice to write.

And how it’s not really a choice.

Which I find both comforting and terrifying. Comforting, because it’s a confirmation that I have something to say that wants to come out. (Dealing with the knowledge that I have something to say has been more psychologically taxing than few things I’ve ever encountered, not to mention trying to discern what it is, exactly, I have to say. But that’s another topic for another day.) Comforting, in that there is an outlet available to me to get that out. Comforting, in that I don’t have to keep all that inside me.

Terrifying, because I like to be in control. And letting go of control is pretty scary.

But it’s not like I have a choice in the matter, anyway.


The first time I was in a creative writing workshop I was twelve years old. I don’t know if I knew what I had to say at that point, but more just that I wanted to say it.

On one hand, I idealize that twelve-year-old. She knew there was some force within her, and was taking the strides necessary to make it come out. She was definitely a bit naïve, but still strong. Stronger than she knew.

But she was scared, too. She was scared of this thing she knew she had to do and didn’t know if she was any good at and she was scared no one would talk to her when all she really wanted was approval that she was allowed to be there in the first place.

Not much has changed in, erm, seventeen years.

But there has been progress. Some headway has been made; there’s more of a direction to follow. And it’s still scary, but at least there are some lampposts to guide the way. They’re dim, but they’re there.

But if there was never a choice, then I can give myself some slack. Because if I didn’t have a choice, then I’m irrevocably meant to be the kind of writer I am now, at this very moment, and not mess with the things I think I should be by now. (And, who am I kidding, scrap writer for person.)

I can only be who I am. And follow the journey. Not map it out, but follow it.

And watch the show.

“It’s why I am a writer – I don’t say ‘decided’ to be, or ‘became’. It was not an act of will or even a conscious choice. To avoid the narrow mesh of [someone else’s] story I had to be able to tell my own.” -Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?


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