Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

writing struggles August 24, 2011

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

— George Orwell

I kind of feel sorry for George when I read this.  Perhaps it was the subject matter he chose?  Or the onerous nature of writing by hand or typing on an old typewriter?

Personally, I don’t feel like I am compelled to write by any demons.  I feel like I’m invited to enter a new world, that comes into being as I step through.  For me, writing is kind of like the scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry finds himself in the train station. His awareness of need calls things  into being.  That concept  is a wonderful metaphor for the writing process.

I don’t find writing to be horrible at all, and most certainly not an exhausting struggle.  It’s more like an invigorating adventure, where surprise waits around every corner.

I can see how writing Orwellian books would be completely soul destroying though.  Living in the head of  1984’s protagonist, Winston, for the time needed to craft that novel would be enough to suck the life right out of you.  Fatalistic visions of a horrible future don’t make for a positive outlook.  I hope George had some antidepressants.  It’s always better to be doing a task you enjoy.


story urge May 31, 2011

I’ve been reading a book called The ABC’s of Creative Nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkind. The theme is there is a compulsion to tell our stories that goes beyond cultural and is actually biological, he says,

The act of autobiography forms in our frontal cortices, while the will to write likely lies in the limbic system, one of the oldest parts of the brain, governing not only basic desires for food and sex but social bonding, learning, and memories. We are the most vocal of the primates, and sharing the intimate details of our lives has many functions: the act makes us feel connected to others, alleviates stress, and makes us healthier. Writing about emotionally laden events increases our T-cell growth and antibody response, lowers our heart rate, helps us lose weight, improves sleep, elevates our mood and can even reduce pain.
(Keep It Real. ed. Lee Gutkind. New York: Norton. 2008)

So. It’s not obsessive to be writing all the time.  Keeping a blog is a healthy thing!  Some people jog. I write. I know I feel good after I’ve been writing, but it’s interesting to know that it’s not just anecdotally true.   They talk about the ‘runner’s high,’  but they don’t talk about the ‘writer’s high.’  We know about it though.  It fuels our writing.  What’s more, we feel it again when we re-read something we wrote that is particularly good. 

 What we feel is actually legitimate psychological response.  Good.

I feel so much better about not jogging now.


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