Posted in On Writing

Why I write

I am deeply angry as I write this. I have been angry for weeks because so many things are not working out the way I expected. Authoring three books and still not seeing light at the end of the tunnel will do that to a person.

Expectations. Now there is a recipe for frustration. But I have learnt that I can get through anything as long as I am writing, particularly fiction.

I wrote my first book while working full time jobs. Even when I was really unhappy in a job or had had a bad day, once I got home and started writing, everything faded away.

Naturally, there were times I would struggle getting the words but once they started to flow, I lost all sense of time. Often, I would be jolted to realise it was 1am, tell myself to just finish the paragraph only to write till 3am, finally forcing myself to shut down the laptop and go to sleep because I had a job to go to the following day.

That was a decade ago. I still remember the heady excitement of seeing my name in print for the first time. There hasn’t been a feeling like that, before or since. Even falling in love pales in comparison.

After publishing a book, seeing your byline in a magazine or newspaper doesn’t elicit the same level of excitement but one gets a feeling of satisfaction nevertheless.

These days I feel like an old hand, until I get an assignment that really challenges me. When I am sure that despite my best efforts I will not be able to deliver what the client wants and fear sets in.

But fear is good. It keeps you sharp, forces you to keep learning and keeps your ego in check. Newsroom editors can be particularly brutal and don’t mince their words.

“You f***d up.” I still remember the first time an editor used the F-word to describe my efforts. I was too stunned to react. In all the jobs I’d held before, none of my bosses had used such explicit language with me. Then again, a newsroom is another world altogether. You’d have to work in one to really appreciate the experience.

The pressure is unrelenting and that is eventually what forced me out of the newsroom. In journalism, you are only as good as your last story. Even when your piece makes the front page, you don’t get a chance to relax and just savour it. Every morning the editor is on your case, “What do you have for us today?”

Unlike other jobs I held where periods of high octane pressure were followed by lulls, when you work for a newspaper, there are no breaks because it must come out every day. Customers demand it. On slow news days or holiday periods like Christmas and the New Year, it can get tough.

Most days I would get home so tired that the only thing I wanted to do on my laptop was listen to music or watch movies not write.

Previously, writing was my release valve from the pressures of work. Now it had become the source of pressure. During my time in the newsroom, I made zero progress on my novel. Something had to change.

So I quit and now I’m on the outside, writing at my own pace, choosing the topics I want to write on and it’s great. It was a sacrifice because I took a pay cut and a regular income is now history.

When money is tight, I remember the regular salary with nostalgia but soon after I remember how I became intimately familiar with migraines due to the pressure. It got so bad that I saw more doctors in that one year I worked in the newsroom than I had in the previous decade.

I relish my independence. I wake up knowing the day is mine to do with as I please, not dictated by a boss who may or may not be a tyrant.

Since I no longer have to sit in traffic for two hours every morning I can now sleep longer and start working at the same time as my friends. And there’s no need to dress up, I can work in my pyjamas.

In the evening, while they are sitting through another two hours in traffic, I am working. So it’s worth the pay cut. Anytime now, the writing thing will pay off and give me financial security.

I’m not angry any more.

That ultimately is why I write. It always makes me feel better.

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