Aboriginal Elders and Why I Won’t Quit Writing

(This article originally published by The Odyssey on November 1, 2016).

I don’t trust aptitude tests anymore. I’m never quite sure how to answer the questions, and I’m really not sure how trustworthy the results are.

For example, the last time I took an aptitude test in high school, I was informed that one of my top three professions was Aboriginal Elder.

I’m not kidding.

While I’ve never made a serious attempt to follow that suggestion, I must admit there are times it’s been tempting. Writing is both the best and worst job in the world.

At times, writing is easy, and as NY Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman put it, “you just walk across thin air, and it’s absolute and utter happiness.”

At other times, writing is the most emotionally stressful job in existence — with the possible exception of gun smuggling, which probably pays better too.

In those hard times, when words only come by pulling with forceps and no one seems to notice my work, there’s one thing which keeps me from quitting it all and moving to Australia. It’s the fact there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

I can try not to write, and there are periods where I give up certain kinds of writing for a while. I had to give up writing fiction for this summer because I was working 10- to 12-hour workdays. I more or less ignored my ability to write nonfiction until my freshman year at Taylor University .

But in spite of these phases where I ignore one type of writing, I can never totally turn the valve off. Even if writing is hard, even if everything else is crumbling to ashes, I have to write. This is not negotiable in my life.

As the young Michelangelo put it in Irving Stone’s novel The Agony and the Ecstasy, “Bleed me of art, and there won’t be enough liquid left in me to spit.”

I pursue writing because, without it, there wouldn’t be much left in me to live for.

Even if I would make a really good Aboriginal Elder.

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