NON FICTION: Are You Dead Inside

stars

So you’re just gonna quit writing?”

Jim shrugged, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know,” he exhaled. “There’s just… nothing to write about anymore, you know?”

“What about the shitty things you face at work?” I asked.

“That’s the thing,” Jim replied. “Work has been great.”

“And?”

“Have you ever tried writing without emotions?”

“Yeah it sucks, but still!”

“So you have?”

I sighed. “But to quit writing? That’s a huge thing to say.”

Jim twisted his beer mug back and forth with his fingers. “I don’t know man. I thought it’d be easier to just focus on my career for the time being. It’s not like I’ve been writing anyway. I could use the extra time too.”

“What about your drafts? Don’t you wanna at least submit them somewhere?”

“You mean the unwanted stories and the thirty pages of an unplanned novel?”

“Okay fine. Fine. It’s your life.”

“Hey man. I’ve never gotten anywhere with my writing before. Perhaps it’s for the best. I’ll be back, you know? Maybe when I retire. Just not now.”

Another role model bites the dust. For an accountant, Jim’s a pretty solid writer, someone I look up to. But to hear someone of that caliber call his writing a fruitless pursuit had me questioning where I stood.

Still, I knew where Jim was coming from. Having a good life is a common woe to writers. It’s a first world problem. Literally.

I’m writing this piece in a post-workout glow, with Len snoring a whisper louder than the air-conditioning unit. A light drizzle patters outside, I’m sipping on a warm glass of milk, and I have a great book waiting for me on my headstand. I can barely recall a time I’ve felt this content, but the downside is I’ve nothing to pour into my work either.

It doesn’t help that the fuck burglars have robbed me somewhere in recent years, leaving me with significantly less fucks for general use. Get cut off in traffic? No problem. Get passed over for a promotion? Meh. Hold a book with the spine wide open and dog-ear the pages? YOU HEATHEN.

This lack of caring has also put a stop on my hobby-collecting spree. I usually dive head-on into a new pastime, learn as much as I can before the spark sizzles out, and then hop onto the next—usually unrelated—thing. I haven’t tried something new in a while. And I’ve let go a lot of the old stuff as well.

Maybe I’m making excuses for my laziness. After all, many great writers had created their masterpieces when they had the least desire to write. But then there are writers like Bukowski, who’ve written poems about writing, one of which that goes:

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

And that’s the thing about me. My sun is a rock, and I’ve forgotten what the fire feels like. I might’ve felt a prickle once, but that was when I had a hole in my lung.

So I’m in the train home after drinks with Jim, and I’m observing the commuters as the announcer reminds us to mind the gap. Those not seeking solitude in their phones are staring out the windows, eyebags and business clothes a testament to their long days.

I look at them and think, maybe this is part of life. You start off having fancy ideas for your future, and the next thing you know, you’re working in an occupation you didn’t really choose, to pay for debts you didn’t really want to accrue. Then you live that life for a while, and you decide that that’s how adulting’s supposed to be.

Then you realise that, in the spirit of being a grownup, maybe you should just suck it up and get shit done—write even if you don’t feel like writing. Just put uninspired material out there and see what happens, because it sure as hell is much better than not writing at all.

And when your friend Jim asks you if you’ll keep writing, you’ll say yes, and you’ll tell him you’ll continue writing, because even rocks can turn into shooting stars.

Jim will stare at you with a look you think is awe, and you’ll tip a knowing nod, before he lays it straight: “Dude, you’re drunk.”

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