Who’d Be a Writer?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Today, I’d like to share a joke with you.

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh my,” said the writer. “Let me see heaven now.”

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” said the writer. “This is just as bad as hell!”

“Oh no, it’s not,” replied an unseen voice. “Here, your work gets published.”

This is an old joke, but I like it because it rings true. No one sane would voluntarily choose to be a writer, and put themselves into this perpetual torment we all live in. The stress and anguish of rewriting and revisions. The depression that follows each rejection. The feelings of worthlessness that seems to hit every writer on a regular basis, making them doubt their ability to write anything that’s remotely publishable.

We don’t choose to be writers, we just are. The need to write is as inherent as the need to breathe. So we deal with it, somehow. We write, and we deal with the ups and the downs. Those of us with day jobs somehow find a way to fit the writing and all it entails in around the day job. Sometimes I envy my colleagues who roll into work a bit later, insisting they physically can’t get out of bed before 8am. Sometimes I wish I couldn’t either, but my 5:30am starts on writing mornings prove that actually, I can, even if I don’t like it much.

Being a writer is not a career choice, it’s just what we are. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a writer. On the whole, in spite of aforementioned downers, I am proud to be so.

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1 comment so far

  1. carole tyrrell on

    I would have to agree with you on your comments on th e ups and downs of a writers life. Anthony Sher said that ‘Maybe you have to be a bit unstable to be creative’ and why else would you shut yourself away to write something that you don’t know if anyone is ever going to see, much less be interested in at all. I feel better and more fosued when I write once I’ve stopped jousting with the blank page. My muse generally sidles up to me in an exasperated way saying ‘OK loser shall we do a few lines? Or do you want to work in the Jobcentre again?’ By then I am superglued to the chair.


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