Two of the profs I share an office with on Monday and Wednesday are also writers. One’s a young poet with a first book almost completed and the other’s maybe about my age. She’s writing a novel, too. We were talking the other day about why we would do such a thing as write when it’s so difficult to find the time, and almost impossible to be well published. We agreed it was a compulsion, not a choice.

I’ve always wondered if writing is a sign of a mental problem–for me specifically, not for other writers. I mean, really, why would I want to do something for which I am routinely rejected? And for so long? I’ve been writing for 40 years. Trying to publish a novel for 30 years. Well, off and on, between kids and marriages and degrees and teaching jobs, but still. Why haven’t I given up?

Any sane person would have let it go by now. At least that’s what I tend to believe in my bleaker moments. And then this morning I came across a passage in Thoughts Without a Thinker. Turns out that any kind of creative act helps us transcend mere ego. Channeling emotion into art helps us to “evoke a state of being in which self-consciousness is temporarily relinquished.”

Creative types, says Buddhist and M.D. Mark Epstein, routinely “dissolve into the act of creation.” Since Epstein is a psychiatrist, I think what he’s saying here is that I’m not crazy. When I’m writing, I’m actually doing something worthwhile. For my soul, if not my wallet.


  1. I know what that feels like. I feel that way when I am a student, studying and learning with others. I would be a full-time student but that doesn’t pay well either.


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