I Write Because I Have to, Not Because I Want to

For some people, writing is a necessity.

I love watching movies and TV shows, reading books, and spending time with people. There are many days I would much rather do these things than write even a paragraph.

If I’m being honest, when I think of relaxing activities that give me a sense of peace, freedom, and overwhelming joy, writing is not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, it really doesn’t come to mind at all.

Don’t get me wrong: Writing makes me happy and I’m privileged enough to get to do it every day (and extremely grateful for it).

When I say I “have” to write and don’t “want” to write, I don’t mean I hate writing and have to force myself to do it. I mean I am not sure that I could survive if I could not depend on writing to propel me forward.

For many people, writing is an essential part of both surviving and thriving. If they lose the natural desire to write, then there’s likely something wrong. I spent seven months mentally and physically unable to write for a stretch of time in college, and that’s actually the only signal I had that I needed professional help. And when I started writing again, I knew I was finally healing.

There’s this misconception that if you’re not always enjoying something, but you still do it, you’re doing the wrong thing. Actually, that’s called work!

I think there’s a big difference between “I write because it’s fun” and “I write because it fulfills me.” This is, I think, the difference between a hobby and a passion.

Hobbies are almost always enjoyable and tend to either happen when they happen or don’t. Example: I signed up for a showcase in college that required me to learn how to spin flags (like they do in marching bands).

That was a fun experience. Sometimes I still drag a flag out into my backyard and fling it around. But it’s a hobby. I haven’t done it in over 6 months and I don’t think about it every day. Sometimes I do it and yay! It’s fun. But if I don’t, I don’t.

But a passion is something you hold onto. Something you crave. I call writing my passion because when I go too long without doing it, I feel empty. Even when I’m not particularly in the mood to write, doing it fills me with a kind of serenity nothing else can.

I always know that I will feel better after I write. And so I do it. And I am rarely wrong.

Writing can be — and often has to be — both work and play. You can, and should, do it when you feel like it and when you know you’re going to enjoy it most. But you also have to do it when you’re tired, and when you’d rather be watching every single Best Picture nominee in one sitting, and when you’re convinced what you’re working on won’t go anywhere.

Why? Because you were born to write, and though life gets in the way, you will always find yourself back in your chair, in front of your laptop, writing something down.

Enjoy the moments writing makes you feel alive. Learn to work through the moments it is a struggle. You should know by now that struggling is what makes us stronger and builds us into the creators we are meant to be. We struggle because we have to learn that success comes only with effort. Ink, sweat, and tears, and all that.

Today, I had to get up, and I had to write. I was not looking forward to it. I wanted to stay in bed just a little longer.

But I did it. And I am glad. Because the work is always worth it. Every single time.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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13 thoughts on “I Write Because I Have to, Not Because I Want to

  1. Yes, I too crave writing and the more I do it, the more I want to! I’m currently on about 45,000 words on my book so only another twenty or so to go I reckon. Every time I write, I feel frankly marvellous! I’m so glad that you enjoy it too … isn’t it fabulous! Katie

  2. I went 5 years without writing and just started again. It is so nice to finally be over my slump and get back to the things I love. I find it hard to make time for it with my busy life, but I am enjoying being able to do it anyway.

  3. I’ve always been writing things. That said, I didn’t start being a writer until a few years ago. That’s when I taped into the deep dark recess of my memories and took all the frightening and terrible things I’ve been drug through and began putting them on paper. And suddenly I discovered I had something worth saying. I might not be making any money yet, but I’m looking at the world differently, and that’s worth something.

    1. It absolutely is! You can make a difference in the world — even if it’s just your world — even if it’s not your day job. I’m glad you’ve found a way to use writing to lift you up, that’s the perfect use for it.

  4. “There’s this misconception that if you’re not always enjoying something, but you still do it, you’re doing the wrong thing. Actually, that’s called work!”

    I’m really not so sure about this. Any activity can become un-enjoyable I suppose – I got bored of skiing every winter’s day for 8n years. But if work is not at least almost always enjoying it then I would rather become a trappist.

    But hey, I’m probably a little unusual.

    1. I think in this context, you’re right, you typically wouldn’t keep writing if you straight up hated it, what would be the point? But everyone has days when they don’t want to even do the thing they normally enjoy doing. At certain points you kind of have to keep doing it even when you don’t want to. That doesn’t mean your overall love for writing isn’t still there, just in the moment you’d rather not. It’s kind of like my mom saying, “You’re my baby, I’ll always love you. But right now you’re getting on my nerves and at this particular moment I really don’t like you.” :P

  5. “At certain points you kind of have to keep doing it even when you don’t want to. ”
    Yes, I guess that must be right. I have a fixation with happiness or its lack and the necessity to alter the human pain pleasure axis having suffered from various degrees of depression for many years. It does rather tend to define my views on life.

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