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A Writer’s Lot

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Over the last weeks I have moved as if in a fog, unable to do much more than the basics of survival. When I picked up the sharp chisels in my shop I didn’t feel the old feeling of connection to wood and the task at hand. Occasionally I would write some short piece and the world brightened for a moment — the different worlds seemed to merge and coexist — only to fall away.

I happened to pick up a book my wife had recently given me for my birthday, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I recognized myself in the preface.

“Not to write, for many of us, is to die.”

Yeah, that’s true. That’s me. I really have been avoiding being a writer. I have been suffering that fact.

“But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.”

But, it actually goes deeper than that, a lot deeper. So why don’t I write everyday? Because I’m damned, squeezed by competing failures. If I write and stay sane, I can’t make a living. Then, I get crazy because I’m not paying my share of the freight for living.

If I try to not write so I can make a living, I can’t stay focused enough in my non-writing induced craziness to even really be safe around my tools. How did this happen?

I envision us all living at the coast, between the land and the depths, at the border between the conscious and unconscious. We pump our dark effluent of fear and desire out into the ocean where it is pummeled by the wind and surf into a black froth. Any being that rises from the great depths to our world to inform us will be encrusted with this dark toxic waste. All we will see of the gift of knowledge is our own black face of fear.

As writers we focus on different aspects of this tossing shit-strewn sea. Some focus on the effluent and go no further. Some are only aware of the vapor tossed from the foam at the tip of the wave. Some of us hold our breath and go as deep as we can, down below our personal fears, down below our cultural fears, down into a realm freed of this pollution. The world is suddenly as alive as that encountered when diving off a great reef. Everything seems clear and apparent. Below the dark surface mask of fear is a body of teeming life that bears the deep knowledge. Sometimes it seems you can even begin to breathe in this realm.

When I write, I live at the heart of the overlap of the worlds. I am at once of the mountains, deserts, and valleys and also of the many depths of the sea. I am no longer a creature of one world. If I don’t write, I am left searching for water in the desert.

So, some of us have to write. It is our calling.  But I haven’t been writing out of fear for my survival. It seems it would be better if I only wrote about the vapor off the foam off the wave on the shit-strewn sea. I’d maybe make more money, but I’d never taste the depths.

We once served a purpose in the lives of the people, but it no longer seems true. I need a change; we need a change.

“For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, and reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.”

I have been flopping like a dying fish on land. I once dove along the great reef and swam through teeming life. I breathed underwater. I have to get back to writing, to my real life. At my keyboard the worlds align and overlap, passing over and through each other to weave a fabric. What is this fabric worth in this world?

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About John Spivey

  • wow…. just….wow

    a ton of Stuff to digest here, as usual

    and the weft and weave are inded needed…

    now as much as Ever, in so many Ways, perhaps more

    thanks, John…


  • I am pleased to tell you this article is being featured in the Culture Focus today, August 23.

    Diana Hartman
    Culture Editor

  • You can replace the words “writer” and “write” with “photographer” and “shoot”….and this article is all about me. It’s just a good feeling to know there are other people who also feel the uncontrollable urge and drive to do what we do….to do the things that remind us we are alive.

    When I am doing anything related to photography, that is when I feel complete…my body chemistry even feels different, almost like I’m working a different plane of consciousness.

    What I’m realizing now though, is that when I am living my life true to my ‘calling’-so to speak- it seems like the rest of the world falls in line, and the opportunities begin to appear that will allow me to shoot, and shoot some more.

    So the lesson, for me at least, is to listen to that inside voice, don’t try to quiet it. When I am true to myself, and to my inner drive, the universe responds.

  • ok… it’s “settled” down into the hindbrain a bit now…


    glorious that you are one who stands on that Shore…

    as id evidenced by your NEED to write, which in so many instances, by the Writers themselves, stands as the very Definition of a Writer…

    that they NEED to do It

    there are many anecdotal, and even autobiographical accounts frmo Writers talking about their NEED…

    Heinlein wrote of it about himself quite often, the same physical and mental discomfort when he stayed away too long… and that he couldn’t be Content until he once again started *hearing* his Character speak in his skull, and returned to typing as the Birth Method for his Vision

    chantal hits upon it as well, speaking of her artistic Voice and the NEED to follow it’s Path

    and thus you can easily disgtinguish between the likes of the two of you, true Artists, and the rest of us who merely Dabble…

    my best Hopes to both of you, and all those like you…

    may your Muse rest lightly on your shoulder, and never stop whispering in your Ear…


  • I thank everyone for their comments and attention.

    Chantal–I hope the world smiles with fortune on your photographic endeavors.

    gonzo–I do appreciate your appreciation. If you have any desire for a copy of my book, shoot me an email by clicking on the link in my bio at the end of the article.


  • Steve

    Good for you, Chantal. I’ve always been envious of folks who know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Follow your dream!

  • Your words are inspiring, John, thank you. Too many of us are trapped by the fear of taking the leap as a writer, and you’ve put that pain into words. I just wanted you to know that I’ve used your article as my inspiration for today.