If you hate writing, don't write

There are a lot of things I’d like to be –  musically inclined, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde etc. I only realized the latter after I went so far as to register for the LSAT and spent like ten whole hours in coffee shops with my $32 study book before, thankfully, it dawned on me that I don’t really want to spend the next three years continuing to be poor or the 30 after that reading legal documents. I don’t like boring things or even laws for that matter. I just wanted look adorable in suits. I thought it was what I should be doing. So, as much as the idea of being a lawyer had its appeal, actually doing law stuff was a hole I did not fit. Yay for saving $50,000!

The grand secret to having a life that you love is not letting that person you wish you were dictate how you actually explore your passions. If you’re bad at something, don’t do it. If you can stop doing it tomorrow and never do it again, quit today. So many people are deluded into thinking something is their passion when it’s just the idea of being the type of person with that passion that’s driving them.

Give up those dreams! Eat ice cream! (Or just take a break and see if it breathes new life into you.) There is such a power in setting something aside that isn’t working.

Why does our society think we all need to iron out our weaknesses? By that logic, I’d be pounding away at that basketball net out there when the reality is I’m never going to be a good basketball player. I’m never going to be an okay basketball player. I’m an old 5’2″ mother of three and I don’t even know the rules or care in the least. Yeah, it would be sweet if I were some kind of wunderkind who made international news by becoming a Chicago Bull right now, but why would I smash my head against a wall doing something I hate only for the payoff of impressing other people? Other people don’t really give a boo what you’re doing, so don’t waste your life trying to impress them.

So why are you trying to be a writer if you hate writing?

A friend of mine and I have a disagreement (You: NO WAY!). Yes way. The point of our contention is whether Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please, was an enjoyable read. When Poehler explained that writing is like “hacking away at a refrigerator with a pick axe” (which sounds like heaven to me, if you know my current struggle with my landlord) the whole book just came across like this: “I’m tired, I can’t write anymore. I’d rather be internet shopping, but I have to write these words you’re reading so I can get your money. I’m in my pajamas staring at a screen just like you. Can I go to Target now? I hate this. Kill me. Pay me. Have I met my word count yet?” followed by a chapter completely delegated to Seth Myers. Ok.

Dear Amy Poehler: You don’t have to write a book just because everyone else is doing it. You shine on stage! That’s okay! Writing does not have the glamour or nerves of being in front of people, so you’re never going to get the same high. There is rarely applause. You might get a tweet. Writing is just talking with a delayed listener and they might even fall asleep or click away or fold you under their seat and you’ll just keep on yapping. I find being unaware of that blissful. It’s not a beauty everyone sees.

I’m sure writing a memoir is to lady comics like having a perfume is to pop stars, but Amy Poehler didn’t have to do it any neither do you. Bake your cakes if you’d rather be baking. Swim your laps or learn to hammer nails by juggling (nifty trick!), but don’t force yourself into a passion for any other reason than you can’t stop doing it.

You will only furiously finger stab a laptop and gleefully lay down words if you can’t stop doing it.

You’ll stay up an extra hour to finish a thought. You’ll obsessively edit days and weeks after positing. You’ll let your kids pour their own cereal and forgive the mess just to re-read that sentence one more time. You’ll miss your exit on the freeway because you’re thinking of your next piece. You’ll sit in a hot parking lot and text yourself notes.

You will not stop because you are not able to stop.

(You will write this extra long blog post with no word count requirement.)

I’m not saying your writing has to be good to keep doing it. Mine’s like 95% junk. I can’t stand anything I write. It’s like hearing an audio recording of my own voice – scratch my eardrums out, please. BUT I LOVE IT. If you hate writing, like Amy Poehler seemed to really hate writing her book, then do something else.

Don’t force yourself to eat vomit if that’s what “your passion” feels like to you.

It is not your passion.

Off with you – go wear lots of proverbial pink and find the thing you love.


This post was inspired by last week’s ChicagoNow writing prompt, “On Writing”.

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