Thursday, December 03, 2015

Homework for the Rest of Your Life

"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life." - Lawrence Kasdan

At first blush the thought of having homework for the rest of my life sounds depressing. After journalism school, law school, and an M.F.A. program, I thought I was done with homework. But after giving it some thought, I realized having homework for the rest of my life might be a good thing.

First, it gives me a purpose. Chronic depression sometimes makes me question my reason for being. And I'm not talking about the state of the nation. My mind with its terrifying mental twists need not look beyond the four walls of my office to find a way to bring me down. Writing gives me a reason to exist. Writing gives me the motivation to carry on. That book won't write itself. It's waiting for me to show up.

Some days, writing gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Especially if I've made plans to meet another writer to work on my project while she works on hers, I'm more likely to make it out of bed and into the shower.

Writing is also an antidote to boredom. With writing, I have no reason to be bored. I have a book to edit, another to write, query letters, revisions, and on and on. There's not enough time to be bored.

It's also a multi-faceted cure for loneliness. My characters, real or imaged, keep me company. I'm rarely lonely when writing. Plus, when I immerse myself in the writing community, I have a host of like-minded friends who understand the trials and tribulations of attempting to put words on the page.

When I mentioned the idea of eternal homework to my husband, Ed, he extolled the benefits of "the eternal quest for knowledge!" I don't get that. He's an intellectual. I'm a gut person. But for him and others, writing as a quest for knowledge is a boon. Some people love seeking information and learning things they didn't know.

Of course, I could easily turn this homework business into a weapon and bludgeon myself with the work I haven't done or the lack of quality I perceive in the work I have done. That's why it's important to have good readers who want me to succeed. If I have chosen carefully who sees not only my early drafts, but even my more polished work, I have cheerleaders along the way.

So no. Having homework for the rest of my life is not a bad thing. Remind me of that the next time I complain. Okay?