Some three years ago, Becky and I set out on a quest to watch all of Woody Allen's movies. (He's made more than you might think.) We are still trying to get to the end of this queue.
Recently, however, my attention fastened upon a character played by Nick Nolte. In this one scene Nolte, a painter, was discussing the significance of his painting with a young art student who was threatening to quit. She asked, "But how do you get inspired to paint? How do you find the energy to keep doing it?"
The answer came suddenly, with the Nolte blurting out, "One doesn't paint because one wants to. If a person is a painter, he will paint because he can't do anything else."
I've heard this same line used in ministry . . . but I've also heard it used when it comes to writing. Writers write because they have to. At least it's held true for me.
Even now, sitting here watching an NCAA basketball game that I've pulled in through my rabbit ears (and high def no less) . . . I am writing. In the past two hours I've written three essays to meet a publication deadline. Last night I wrote five short stories (all less than 1000 words each, but five nonetheless). And early this morning I finished two poems, wrote eight pages of material for a review, and began writing a new book proposal. Why? What else can I do? What else is there to do in the middle of the night? (And don't mention sex cause I can't meet that deadline any more.)
No . . . it's writing from here on out. Writing until my back goes, my knees, my mind. And besides, I've got too many books, too many stories, too many essays, too many poems--both unpublished and yet to be written--that are waiting in the wings.
An actor acts. A painter paints. A writer writes. It's a life sentence.