I swear to God, I’m almost done with the writing-about-writing bollocks – there’s just this one to get out of my system, and then the next one should segue into a new topic.
…often there are blowjobs available.
Right, so I’ve got all of the “why not write?” excuses out of my system; the reverse of that question is “why bother writing, anyway? What’s the motivation for overcoming all of those obstacles?” That’s worth a ponder before I get going in earnest.
Because it isn’t there
There’s a quote by the American novelist Thomas Berger: “Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” That always sounded a bit wanky and earnest to me, but I have to admit it sums up a lot of my feelings on the “why write?” question. We write because we see a hole in the world that’s the same shape as an idea in our heads, and we feel the need to fill that hole, just because we know we can. Huh – that is wanky and earnest.
Ego, plain and simple
Who remembers the brief Jay Mohr sitcom “Action”? It ran for about a dozen episodes from late 1999 to early 2000, then was cancelled because the show’s producers had foolishly sold it to FOX. (It was one of the most cynical and at times downright nihilistic comedies I’ve ever seen; its natural home would have been HBO, but FOX offered more money up front, then canned it for not being family-friendly enough.)
I own the series on DVD, and the “making of” special feature ends with the following comment from Chris Thompson, the show’s Executive Producer:
“Everyone who wrote on it, if we really gave a shit about what we wrote, we’d go home and write poetry. We do it because we’re paid a great deal of money, and because often there are blowjobs available.”
If I was just doing this for myself, I wouldn’t be publishing my writing on the Internet, I’d be content to keep it to myself, like the Zen master who knows himself and has nothing to prove to the world. But the fact is I want to be told how clever and funny and awesome I am, and this is the best way I have of getting people to do that. The commenting function’s at the bottom of the page, by the way.
This last one’s a funny one, and more than a bit personal. My grandfather, John Henry Murdoch (Grandad Jack to us) was a multi-talented man. He could write, he acted, he could paint in oils and sketch in pencil, and as a child he was the wittiest man I knew. But after his death, I remember my mother at times talked about how he never really made much of his talents. And sometimes that resonates with me – I can chuck out 500 words on a whim, but I prefer to stick to 140 characters; it turns out I can put together short films pretty much single-handedly with little to no resources, but I only do it once a year for the company short film competition at work. There’s a lot I could achieve if I put my mind to it, but I very rarely do.
Now, maybe Grandad Jack had the Zen-like confidence in himself that I don’t – maybe he never appeared to do much because he had nothing to prove – but I can’t shake the feeling that I should listen to my mother’s words and make more of the things that I can do. And this could be a start.