Three years ago, writing was only one of the things I did. I also acted with the local theatre, I danced with a belly dancing class, and other classes, I visited castles and palaces and cathedrals and museums, I went on long walks, I did evening classes, I went to the theatre and cinema.
Then I got ulcerative colitis. Amongst other symptoms, I was totally and utterly exhausted. Everything had to stop. I had to give up the acting, and dancing and walks and visits. I had to cut my life down to what was important to me. I had to keep my day job to live. But I found I could not give up the writing.
It’s not because writing is easy. You and I both know that writing can be emotionally and physically exhausting. It was a real effort to write even for just an hour a day. But I could not give it up. My illness had showed me what was really important in my life.
I’m not suggesting that getting a chronic incurable disease is the only way to know you’re a writer, come what may. Any big life change could show you that. Come to think of it, any little life change could make you realise it. You could be sitting at the kitchen table drinking a coffee and suddenly realise, out of nowhere ‘I’m a writer, that’s what I am’. But I think we all have to go through that moment, whether as a child or an adult, whether in our 20s or 70s, when we realise that writing is what we do, what we must do, that we will do, no matter what.