I recently sent an email to somebody who writes professionally, asking for some general advice on writing. 

I have to admit that I kind of regretted doing so when he first responded.  When asking somebody for advice, one opens oneself up to being treated like a stupid, stupid human being.

Puny one, I congratulate you on your great good fortune! You have arrived at the source of all relevant knowledge, and the case being as it is – that you are a clueless little babyperson – it shall behoove us to get started right away.

I shall not bore you with what he actually said. I have no doubt you have been, more than once, in receipt of the same “sit down, junior” vibrations.

Words like “arrogant” and “pretentious” began to float inexplicably to the surface of my mind. So, naturally I proceeded with the conversation as if unfazed. And, meeting no resistance, the pomp swelled to genuinely obnoxious levels. Would it be okay if I called him as asshole?

I was pretty sure he might be an asshole.

But, alas I asked for his advice. It felt rude to walk away without it, just because he was treating me like a nobody – bordering, if we’re being perfectly frank, on unworthiness. Beside that, I gone so far as to admire this person; I was damned if I was going to let him make himself appear unadmirable (and myself a dang fool) without a fight! So I pressed on! I made an embarassingly strong push to appear intelligent, articulate, confident, knowledgeable, creative, et al.. I shipped off a reply to his latest message, and folded my arms and waited.

In his reply, he did two major things. The first was saying something nice to me.

J, that’s what I’m talking about. Those are good answers.

He said they were “good.” He said they were good! I took to the tiny expression of approval as if coming from the drunken, homophobic father I never had. It was embarassingly awesome. But the second thing he said, and the reason I’m really writing this post, was . . .

Then ask yourself this question: “Do I need to write?”

Do I need to write?

Do I need to write?

I love to write. I am excited by writing. I am excited by words in general, actually. Writing is healing. It ignites my intellect. It makes me feel more. Writing connects me to a tradition that dates back, literally, to the dawn of history. It’s using words to do amazing things!

And none of that comes close to answering the question, “do I need to write?” Would I get through my life? Would I . . . succeed? Would I feel like whole person, if I did not write? Some hypothetical questions are easy to digest. This problem is not one of them. Not for me.

The only thing that I feel has put me in the neighborhood of a confident response to my dubious advisor’s query was the memory a meltdown I had a month or so ago.

It was a very typical, identity-crisis sort of meltdown that men of my age and description are so prone to. (I hope.) I found myself overflowing with very pathetic bullshit. I don’t have what it takes. I have nothing to say. I’m not strong enough. I’m not focused enough. I’m not good enough. All about writing. All about the myriad reasons I shouldn’t be a writer and should settle for something else. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, self-conscious oblivion. And, as you might expect, I reacted to all of these crushing thoughts of by writing more. Depending upon taste, you might say “way” more.

In other words, I reacted to my obsession with nonwriterworthiness by “writing it out.” Almost automatically. Very soon afterwards, I created a blog you might be familiar with. I think that says something.

I don’t know if it says anything definite, but it says something relevant. I will let you know if it says something significant.

And I’ll be thinking about these problems. I’ll be thinking about whether I need to write. I’ll definitely be thinking about whether ******* is an asshole or not.


-J

Tell me, dear people: Do you need to write?

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