I’ve been playing at being a writer for nearly thirty years, which seems like a very long time. But whenever I begin to wonder if I will ever get tired of the bother of being a writer, I find myself writing once more and falling in love all over again.
It’s a bother to be a writer, but it’s totally worth it.
The Bother of Writing
A.A. Milne knew more than a little about the bother of being a writer. He was the creator of Christopher Robin, the Hundred Acre Wood, and Winnie the Pooh. This is what we remember of his work, but he wrote for nearly fifty years in total. Twenty-five before the bear and roughly twenty-five after, until he was finally hobbled by a stroke.
Still, no matter what Milne tried the critics always came back around to the boy and the bear. It was something he took quite poorly by all accounts, but he kept on writing.
From Milne’s essay, “The Ideal Author”:
The truth is that a layman will never take an author quite seriously. He regards authorship, not as a profession, but as something between an inspiration and a hobby. In as far as it is an inspiration, it is a gift from Heaven, and ought, therefore, to be shared with the rest of the world; in as far as it is a hobby, it is something which should be done not too expertly, but in a casual, amateur, haphazard fashion.
Even Then He Knew…
Milne had no choice. I assume the same is true for you too.
Most of us who “become writers” have always been writers. No matter what else we do we remain such creatures all our natural lives.
From Milne’s story, “The Sunny Side”:
There, just inside the gates, was Mary. He was only six, but even then he knew that never would he see again anything so beautiful. She was five; but there was something in her manner of holding herself and the imperious tilt of her head which made her seem almost five-and-a-half.
“I’m Mary,” she said.
He wanted to say that he was John, but could not. He stood there tongue-tied.
“I love you,” she went on.
His heart beat tumultuously. He felt suffocated. He longed to say, “So do I,” but was afraid that it was not good English. Even then he knew that he must be a writer when he grew up.
She leant forward and kissed him. He realized suddenly that he was in love. The need for self-expression was strong upon him. Shyly he brought out his last acid-drop and shared it with her. He had never seen her since, but even now, twenty years after, he could not eat an acid-drop without emotion, and a whole bag of them brought the scene back so visibly as to be almost a pain.
Yes, he was to be a writer; there could be no doubt about that. Everybody had noticed it. The Vicar had said, “Johnny will never do any good at Polwollop, I fear”; and the farmer for whom John scared rooks had said, “Thiccy la-ad seems daft-like,” and one after another of Mrs. Penquarto’s friends had given similar testimony. And now here he was, at twenty-six, in the little bed-sitting-room in Bloomsbury, ready to write the great novel which should take London by storm. Polwollop seemed a hundred years away.
Feverishly he seized pen and paper and began to wonder what to write.
Writing Through the Bother
Being stuck in the bother of being a writer is particularly troublesome if we should find ourselves in some other line of work. Even if the work is pleasant and the pay substantial, we are nagged by the idea of writing night and day till we set down to do it. Then, we find ourselves paralyzed by the excitement and the fear.
This rush of adrenaline coupled with stirrings of old ideals becomes the ruin of many attempts to write. The writer fears they may fail. They fear they may become a success. They fear many things, but they often fear is that they will have to return to the real world.
And often, they are right on all accounts, but it hardly matters. Fears, real or imagined, are still there but the pleasure of writing cannot be denied. It’s worth all the bothers.
Trust me… Just write and you’ll see.
From Milne’s essay, “The Pleasure of Writing”:
Sometimes when the printer is waiting for an article which really should have been sent to him the day before, I sit at my desk and wonder if there is any possible subject in the whole world upon which I can possibly find anything to say. On one such occasion I left it to Fate, which decided, by means of a dictionary opened at random, that I should deliver myself of a few thoughts about goldfish.
But to-day I do not need to bother about a subject. Today I am without a care. Nothing less has happened than that I have a new nib in my pen!