What If I Didn’t Write?

. Occasionally, for one reason or another, I’m prevented from writing. At the moment, for example, I haven’t really been able to write for almost two weeks. So what would I be like, if I didn’t write?

At first, I luxuriate in the free time. I can read, and watch movies, and not have writer’s cramp, and bits of paper scattering the flat. It’s all quite peaceful.

But then the restlessness sets in. Nothing quite satisfies me. I flit from one book to another, one movie to another, and can’t settle on just one. Everything leaves me with an unfinished feeling, as if I was reaching for something that’s not quite there.

I don’t sleep well. I toss and turn all night, and when I do sleep, my dreams are fractured and disturbing.

I need to be constantly on the move. I walk miles, and run fast, and dance furiously, but even when I am physically exhausted, I still cannot keep still. And there is still an aching need inside me to be doing something.

I become bad-tempered. Everything annoys me. People annoy me, and I snap at them. My nerves are constantly on edge. Everything is irritating.

Eventually, I cannot bear it. I can feel the words itching away inside me, under my skin. I find a pen, and a blank bit of paper, and I write.

I write for hours, and finally, with a sore hand and ink-stained fingers, worn out, I sit back. Then, at last, I have a measure of peace.

Doctors used to tell female writers and artists that creating was bad for them, that they had to stop and calm down, that it stirred them up too much. (see the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman). This was supposed to cure them of depression and hysteria. I cannot think of anything more likely to have the opposite effect.

It’s not so much that writing is a mental and emotional need (although it is). Writing, now, is practically a physical craving.

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