Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deciding to write

How much of becoming a writer is due to choice?

I have known many writers who have told me that they had no choice in the matter. They HAD to write. It was what they were born to do--and without it they would suffer severe psychic or physical pains. I listen to them and wonder why I don't feel that way.

I have always been a writer. I did a little creative writing when I was young, but when I went to college, I chose to major in political science. It required that I write a lot, but for term papers and essay exams. After college I went to law school where clear, concise writing was essential. But neither college nor law school required me to do any creative writing. Research, analysis, and critical thinking were the skills that I honed.

After law school, I did a stint as a law book editor, acquiring a more discriminating eye and sharper scalpel. Then, as a practicing attorney, every day required that I do a lot of writing: correspondence, pleadings, briefs. Next I joined academia. As a professor and pre-law advisor, I have written lectures, articles, speeches, and even a book.

Apparently writing is part of my DNA--or at least a part of my everyday life. Perhaps I never feel the requirement to write simply because I am always writing something.

But writing fiction is something I have taken up relatively recently. So is fiction writing a choice or calling?

It is probably a bit of each. I love reading really good fiction. Being carried off by the written word into another reality that stays with you long after closing the book is an experience I have loved since childhood. The challenge of creating that experience for others appeals to me in ways that writing nonfiction never could.

And it is a challenge. Every page, every paragraph, every word dares me to make my writing better. I get out my scalpel and my editor's eye and try to sculpt the words in ways I never did with nonfiction. Academic writing is a skill; fiction writing is an art.

So, for me, writing fiction is a choice--a choice of how to answer my calling.

How about you? If you write, is it a choice or a calling?


  1. For me it's a choice, with flashes of imperative. There are times when I will come home from work and write for hours and be surprised when the virus scan starts on my computer (it's set for 2:30 am when all good children should be in bed, asleep).

    I agree that there is a definite difference between the type of writing that is required for work (pension administration, anyone?) and the type of writing I do because I want to. And sometimes, I surprise myself with the line that gets typed or the paragraph that gets written in #2 pencil in the ever-present notebook. Sometimes those words call to you, and you merely have to write their echoes.

    Anne Grucza

  2. I don't know that I have an answer to this question. I find that I write often, but I never chose to. Nor do I feel pain if I don't. I find that at some point during my day, I am writing. Just as someone else might find themselves turning on the television or reading the newspaper, I find myself either reading or writing. Whether I am reading the back of a cereal box, or a classic. I might write my thoughts down in a journal, a post it or in a file on my computer. Either way, I write :)

    Mandy Day