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This Writing Life: The Compulsion to Write

21 November, 2011

A couple of things inspired this post, the first being, of course, the madness that is NaNoWriMo and the vast swathe of words that finishing it requires. The other bit of inspiration comes from something said to me a couple of weeks ago. One of my co-workers is an artist and photographer. “I once tried to see how long I could go without creating art,” he said (I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist is right). “I got to about a month, then had to create something because I felt like I was going mad.”

Art, it seems, is very much a compulsion, be that drawing or music, dance or writing. Having a break from writing can be pleasant, of course. Not writing for any great length of time – be it because of other commitments, or lack of inspiration, or illness – is decidedly less so. During my first year at uni, I went through six months without writing more than a few thousand words of fiction. Whilst I was kept busy writing essays and other things, the lack of fiction writing in my life wasn’t something I was happy about.

Now, I certainly wouldn’t say my writing compulsion goes as far as hypergraphia, but it’s still there all the same, and I would think it’s there in most writers, to a greater or lesser extent. Writing, as was mentioned in the comments thread a couple of posts ago, is not something you do for fame and money (in most cases, anyway). It’s something we do because we have to; because the world seems a little bit duller and a little bit colder when we’re not writing.

Which, appropriately, brings me back to NaNoWriMo. There are many great reasons to take part: being surrounded, physically or in online communities, by other people who understand that urge to write is just one of them. It’s the main reason I’ve been blogging exclusively about writing throughout November. When you discover you have that compulsion to write, and try to make it a part of your life, you quickly discover just how little everyone around you (family, friends, even spouses) understands it. NaNoWriMo, though, does a great job of bringing writers together, and reminding us that there are plenty of people out there who understand our passion – and not just understand it either, but celebrate it.

(On a final note, we’re now three weeks into NaNoWriMo! If you’re still hanging in there, whether you’re behind – like me – or not, keep up the good work. The end is in sight!)

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One Comment
  1. 21 November, 2011 12:58 pm

    Good luck with Nano!

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