Doesn't anyone realize that if I don't write soon, I'll die?
It's a dark thought, and one that crosses my mind at least a couple times a week. Usually as I'm settling in to do a different assignment, one that doesn't involve writing, and I can already see my hours of freedom tipping toward sundown. If I don't finish this essay or that book, I'll feel guilty and irresponsible. And if I don't pay the bills, buy the groceries, and return the scary financial phone calls, I will lose this life I live entirely. It's all necessary, and writing---well, it seems like the correct answer is that writing is not. Not as necessary. Not like keeping the power on, or buying baby formula.
According to Google Dictionary, necessity means "the fact of being required or indispensable." In fundamental terms, then, necessity comes down to the body. Survival. Life or death. And here's the truth: when I don't write, after a while, I truly begin to feel that I might die. My breathing gets shallow. My skin prickles. The outside world, normally my inspiration and my greatest joy, becomes my enemy: if it would just go away, I could feed myself. My mind spirals into a kind of furious silent narration, picking invisible fights with everyone I encounter and eventually attacking itself.
Yesterday, instead of writing this blog, reading multiple novels, finishing story critiques, responding to work emails, and calling various social service agencies with innumerable and complicated questions, I spent four hours writing a story from start to finish. It felt like a long, low exhale, a sweet swallow of grape juice. Freedom.
Then, on my way home, my son whimpering from exhaustion in the back seat, my car broke down. We sat in the heavy heat waiting for a pick-up, and already I was ticking off the things I hadn't done, the deadlines I would fail to meet on a Friday now consumed with car repairs. But the truth of it is that when I finally got to bed last night, I fell into sleep like a stone in a lake. Nothing was right, but everything was okay, because there was a story sitting there, finished, waiting to be read.
The microwave is now regarded as a necessity, Google Dictionary goes on to say. I read this with inordinate relief. If the microwave is a necessity, then putting pen to paper must also be. I dropped my car off this morning, picked a vacant armchair in the Toyota dealership's waiting room, and got to work.