This morning, on his daily radio show “The Writer’s Almanac,” Garrison Keillor quoted Gloria Steinem, who once said, “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed over the years by many other writers and one that I resonate with in my heart and guts. Difficult as writing at times may be, there arises this deep sense of satisfaction that, for some of us, is uniquely reached through writing. This type of resonance, this type of yearning satisfaction, seems to be one of the defining qualities that indicates whether your true calling is to be found in writing.
I’m not trying to make “writing” out to be some sort of precious, lofty grail or some type of either/or, on/off, life-defining declaration of commitment. In other words, don’t undertake writing in order to be saved; don’t look to writing to give “meaning” to your life. Actually, I find it more helpful to approach writing as a simple, common process. Just write. Keep it simple. You wanna write, then just write. “Writers write.” Very simple and clean. And to become a writer, all you have to do is write. As soon as you enter into the process, voilà, you are a writer. And if you get called away—to answer the phone or get lost in some years-long tangential sidetrack—that’s okay; the river of writing is always waiting for you to wade in again, always ready to sweep you away.
Let other people worry about whether or not you’re a dilettante or professional, serious or casual, consistent or sporadic writer. In the end, the only person who has the right to take that measure is you. And I recommend that you be easy on your self. But in the meantime, it’s reassuring to be reminded—writer speaking to writer—about the deep satisfaction to be found in writing. And how it’s always so accessible, so close at hand.