I suppose, in the mundane sense of the statement, this is true of anyone who becomes a writer. Reading necessarily comes first. In the same way that we crawl before we walk, we also read before we write.
For me, however, there is a slightly less mundane version of this statement, which may not be true of all writers. A writer’s words sparked in me a beautiful feeling and, because of that experience, I decided to become a writer. I wanted to spark with my words that feeling in at least one other person at least one time. There are, I’m sure, many other reasons to become a writer.
Fortunately, I’m confident that I have sparked with words that feeling in one other person at least one time. Most importantly, I have done it for the person that I have become through my writing. If nothing else, I have at least created some words that I think are valuable. I can put on my literary flight suit, stride across the aircraft carrier of my mind, and declare, “Mission Accomplished.”
I write all of this now because I’ve been having some serious doubts about whether or not I will continue to write on a regular basis or continue to think of myself as a writer. The cause of this doubt may be as mundane as the fine summer weather or the need for a bit of a break. It feels, nevertheless, more substantial and, more significantly, not anything like a crisis. It feels almost like a transition. Call it, the sunny pleasant afternoon of my soul.
It occurs to me now that doubt of this kind is a privilege and a luxury. The condition of its possibility is an abundance, both material and conceptual, that borders on gluttony. It’s rooted also in vanity and arrogance. Doubt of this kind is the ultimate expression of freedom. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that writing, like faith, won’t mean anything if, in principle and practice, it can’t actually be lost or forsaken. An unassailable and rote writing is no faith at all.
When I first stopped believing in God, for a long time, I was afraid to say it out loud. I was afraid that I might be wrong and that, if I said it out loud, I would be in even more divine trouble than I already was. Eventually, I said it out loud. Then, I said it out loud enough times that the fear of divine retribution finally disappeared. Sometimes, you need to speak a belief to test it.
People lose their faith, I suppose, when they pray and they no longer feel like God is present or listening. Writing, I think, is a kind of praying. It is a practice of hope. It is a calling forth. It is an invocation. Perhaps, that’s it. When I write these days, it doesn’t really feel like I or my future self is present, listening, or ready to be invoked. Or maybe I just need to take a break. Or maybe, sometimes, you need to write a belief to test it.
At any rate, on the plus side, now that I’m writing less, I’m reading more, including fiction, which is a happy return. Of course, it might also be one more symptom of the transition. In my beginning may be my end.