Writing As Calling, Writing As Drug

Thinking this morning about writing, and why I write.

One of the truths you have to face as you move into emotional health is your own neediness. If you are feeling needy, admitting it just makes the neediness worse, so it's a tough task; but, like many things in emotional health, just naming it can take power away from it and make it manageable.

What does this have to do with writing? Two things.

One, the dysfunctional artist is such a cliche as to be painful, but it is in the list of cliches because it is often true. Many artists deal with emotional dysfunction and the resulting pain (as do many humans in general). The difference for the artist is that sometimes their own pain gives them insights, understanding, and empathy for the human condition that they then reflect in their art. And it is that reflection that often takes their art from the everyday to the beautiful or meaningful.

But — if the writing (or any other outlet) becomes a way to deal with the pain, rather than a response to the universe's call to create, then it becomes at best self-indulgent, and at worse a drug or an addition.

Ultimately, I cannot write to feel good about myself, or to draw attention, or to seek praise. Ultimately, my writing must come from a call to create and to give to others, to build something of beauty or worth for its own sake. My self-worth has to come from self-acceptance; my writing must come as gift, and not as need or ask.

We're all needy. We all need affirmation. But the writing must not come from that place within us. That is a bottomless dry well.

Instead, let our writing — let MY writing — come from the artesian well of affirmation, and hope, and love, and gift. A gift to the universe, even to God — whether anyone responds, or not.

Let it be so.

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