What do you need to write? Ideas? A certain space? A block of time? Quiet? Solitude? Physical comfort? An Internet connection? A writing group? An MFA? What if you don’t have what you think is essential? Are you dead in the water?
I used to think I needed some of these things. Now I know there is only one requirement: the decision to write. If I have that, everything else follows. I can write in the middle of a crowded room, with a bad pen on stray pieces of scrap paper, wearing a scratchy shirt. When the commitment is made, there’s some switch in my brain that takes it to a whole other place, separate from whatever else is calling to me. Sure, there is a minimal level of comfort or peace of mind required. I doubt I’d be able to write if my house were on fire, or while having my cat put to sleep. But, for me, it turns out that, 99 percent of the time, what I need is pretty minimal. Decision. Commitment. Action. Not even faith is needed. Because the end result, whether publication, recognition, or improved skill, doesn’t matter at this point. Those goals may come later. But they won’t be possible if I don’t, or can’t, initiate that first act. My job as a writer is to make that decision frequently. Maybe every day. Maybe even several times a day. If I make that one simple decision, I have a chance for all the rest. If I don’t, then, that’s when I’m dead in the water. If I have not made that decision, I can sit in the best writing space in the world, with all the solitude and tools I want, and still, nothing will happen. What those other conditions can do, at least a little, is to help make the fundamental decision automatic. A particular space or time or writer’s group meeting can be a trigger. But in the end, the decision comes from some hidden, mysterious place inside of myself. And in the end, that’s all I need.