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It's True: I Love to Write

"What, another book already?" friends exclaim. "You must be so disciplined." They shake their heads in disbelief.

Well, no, not really. The fact is that I love to write. Shaping each sentence, piling them up one upon another in a logical sequence, creating a clear beginning, middle, and end--all these activities fill me with a pure joy. Even business letters give me gratification, since the very act of writing has become so pleasurable.

My love of writing started early. As a high school student I was hardly a nerdy kid, since I loved to party, cut school to go to the beach with my friends, and drag race (yes, I did, and was one of the lucky kids who survived), but when it came to English class I was in my element.

I was one of the few who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences; it felt like creating a beautiful structure with blocks, where every building block has its role. Somehow the notion of prepositional phrases, for instance, where a phrase began with a word expressing a relation to another word in the clause--like "under the table" or "over the moon"--seemed quite clever. Maybe because I was good at parsing the relationships of words, unlike the elements in the periodic table, say, which we studied in chemistry, diagramming sentences gave me a warm feeling of tidiness.

As an adult I waited for years until I felt I had enough to say and had learned the craft sufficiently that I began sending pieces out for publication. But earlier, I wrote in a daily journal--well, I called it that, but I simply scribbled on long yellow sheets of a legal pad, pouring out my heartbreaks, my questions, my goals. I'd stuff these pages into file folders eventually jammed all my drawers. Even then I reveled in the creation of a good line or a fine metaphor. As I look back I see those were years of practicing my craft, while I accumulated the life experiences that could inform a perspective I felt worthy of sharing.

"A writing day is a good day," I tell my partner now--who will testify to the truth. On days when I'm not working on a book or an article I'm clearly not as buoyant, not as cheerful. Little hassles get to me more when I don't have the ample cushion of satisfaction that writing brings me.

On the other hand, enjoyable as writing has become for me, it is also work, and requires a technical savvy, just like diagramming sentences did. I blush now to recall that, twenty years ago, I asked a friend who invited me to join a writing class she'd just signed up for. "What is there to learn about writing?" I thought that once one knew how put one sentence in front of another, that was writing. Oh my, what I didn't know!

Years later, when I made the turn from non-fiction to fiction, I had the same naïve attitude: "What fun. You just get to make stuff up," I thought. And then began years of intensive apprenticeship to learn about narrative tension, how to create lively characters, the significance of setting, and the myriad other elements of successful fiction.

Fortunately I love discovering new skills; the more I learn about writing, the more I realize there is to learn. Writing is a fabulous occupation because the possibilities are endless, and the growing never stops.

So no, it doesn't take a great deal of discipline to keep me at my desk. What it takes is a daily commitment to my own joy.


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