Let’s get this straight: the world will go on just fine without your writing. And writing is not going to save your life. In fact, in many cases, for many writers, the pursuit of the writing life is just about enough to drive you nuts. But if you’ve gotta do it, then do it. If you hear the calling, than heed the calling. But don’t feel like you have to. Take the gun away from your head. Throw away the should’s, the ought to’s, the wannabe’s. Do it because you love it. Do it because it feeds or amuses you. Do it because the process itself answers some deep, heartfelt yearning. Do it because you come back to it, again and again and again.
Someone once asked Flannery O’Connor if she thought that MFA in Writing programs actually dissuaded writers, and she answered, “Yes, but not enough of them.” Lorrie Moore once said in an interview that “you should become a writer only if you have no choice. Writing has to be an obsession.”
Now, I don’t think that either of these writers actually intended to discourage people from writing but, in a sense, they do set a litmus test that each aspiring writer must interpret for themselves, and the color shades can be very subtle.
The simple rhetorical question here is, “Do I really want to write?” The answer may not be black or white but the more unambiguous one can be, the better. If the calling subsides, then go off and do something else. But if the itch persists, well, there’s only one way to relieve it. All obstacles to writing have the same resolution. It’s like standing at the side of a swimming pool, staring at the reflections on the surface of the water, waiting. You are the only one who can take that plunge. What better time than now . . .