You Don't Get to Choose Whether You're a Writer

In this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin, there’s a lovely piece by Kathryne Young called “On Writing, Not Writing, and the Writing Life.”

Here’s a brief snippet:

Joan Didion writes, “The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”

My mother told me something similar when I was young: you don’t get to choose whether you’re a writer; your only choice is whether to be a writer who writes or a writer who doesn’t. What she didn’t tell me then, though I’m certain she knew, is that if you’re a writer and you’re not writing, you will never quite be happy.

Go read the full essay here.

Or go straight to the entire Glimmer Train bulletin!

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5 thoughts on “You Don't Get to Choose Whether You're a Writer

  1. Chet Orban

    The above comment by Ms. Kelly is quite true:"I only wish someone had told me that when I was younger". I am 63, a science teacher, and when I read your last sentence, "If you are not writing, you will never quite be happy". I had a few tears. Maybe just a silly old man, but I like your writing. Much appreciated.
    Chet

  2. Mariah McMillian

    Your mom couldn`t have been more truthful in her opinions. I am a writer. I must be. I tried business school for two years in an attempt to be a business consultant. Nothing. I tried starting a clothing line. Nothing. I even tried being a childcare worker. As head over heels as I was for working with children, I still ended up drifting. I couldn’t find anything I was comfortable with. There was nothing that i could see that could hold my attention long enough to finish.
    I remember writing a short a story in the 4th grade. I enjoyed it with my entire self. I was consumed by it and that story is still a big part of who I am. I still write everything to this day. Even for simple things like my household budget, grocery lists, and other small tasks, it all has to written on paper. I can’t even type my short stories first. I absolutely HAVE to write. And now that I’ve come full circle in my life, I’ve settled right back into where I’m pretty sure I belong. Writing.

  3. Mariah McMillian

    Your mom couldn`t have been more truthful in her opinions. I am a writer. I must be. I tried business school for two years in an attempt to be a business consultant. Nothing. I tried starting a clothing line. Nothing. I even tried being a childcare worker. As head over heels as I was for working with children, I still ended up drifting. I couldn’t find anything I was comfortable with. There was nothing that i could see that could hold my attention long enough to finish.
    I remember writing a short a story in the 4th grade. I enjoyed it with my entire self. I was consumed by it and that story is still a big part of who I am. I still write everything to this day. Even for simple things like my household budget, grocery lists, and other small tasks, it all has to written on paper. I can’t even type my short stories first. I absolutely HAVE to write. And now that I’ve come full circle in my life, I’ve settled right back into where I’m pretty sure I belong. Writing.

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