Writing, all art really, is 20% work, effort; 20% craft, execution; 60% talent, genius. I write simply because I have a knack, a gift, a skill.
Writing, for me, is also largely about deprivation. Boredom is essential. If a novel is not in some way boring, it is unliterary. David Foster Wallace wrote that “boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them,” and I agree wholethroatedly. If you read to be entertained, that’s fine, I’m not one to begrudge a page-turner or a beach read, even romance novels or adults who read books written for children. These are the equivalent of background music or junk food; they are escapism, and escapism’s fine. But escapism doesn’t interest me. I prefer to explore minutiae, to turn the mundane over and over with my mind, to peer at it, to perpend it from every possible angle, to scrutinize, and to speculate fictively in a way that imbues that mundanity with life, that explodes its mundaneness into something combustible and alive, an insurgency, a rebellion.
Writing is a defiant retort against the oblivion of anonymity. I find it productive to think of the immortality of the book as compared to the short lifespan of the author, and I’m certainly not the first or the best writer to approach that subject, but writing is one of the only ways to attain even the slightest measure of immortality, and a potentially meritocratic one at that. It is birthing something into the world, something that previously did not exist, based on the hope that yours might be one of those rare and sporadic creatures that lives longer than you, that takes root in the minds and souls of other human beings.
Lastly, I write because I’m competitive, because I see people doing something and I want to do it better. We are naturally competitive. “We” meaning humans. Think of plots in literature: man vs. man, man vs. machine, man vs. nature, man vs. self. We are competitive; a competitive, Darwinist species. We compete in order to hone our creative blades, in order to adapt. This is not to say that we lack the capacity for cooperation. We are cooperative as well as competitive. But why should art, of all things, be immune from competition? Why are so many “artsy” people so averse to the competitive and the combative and the confrontational, so willing to proselytize for the collective instead of the individual? Why should art be walled off in some isolated and sacrosanct garden, apart from reality?
Every day I write. I go to the tool shed, I take out the rapier, I sharpen it, I practice with it, I prepare for battle, to inscribe my name, to dice the meats and vegetables of character and plot, time and time again, endeavoring to conjure up the perfect meal, knowing I’ll fall short of transcendence, but unable to stop trying.