The Life of a Writer: Not Always a Happy Ending

This morning, when I couldn’t sleep because my apartment had suddenly risen to about a hundred degrees, I pulled out my laptop to turn on a romantic comedy. That’s usually what I do when insomnia hits, mostly because I typically don’t get invested enough in the characters to care if I’m awake by the end. It was a bit of an ordeal because my battery was dead and I had to stumble around the living room without my glasses on to find my charger, but eventually I settled in with my sappy rom-com of choice, the Scottish fan favorite Not Another Happy Ending.

via my-ponchoboys

I’m not a movie critic, so I’ll spare you straight description of the plot (witty, but trite) or the characters (quirky and far too attractive). I didn’t end up falling asleep, although I’m not entirely sure if that was a testament to the quality of the film or the continually rising temperature in my bedroom. I paid enough attention to feel like I saw the movie; not enough to love it. But there was one little scene, toward the end of the story, that I had to rewind and rewatch. Yep, it was that good.

I guess, for context, the main character (Karen Gillan, my number one girl crush) is a novelist who suffers from the tragicomedy that is writers block. Because she’s “too happy” from the aftermath of her first novel, her editor tries to make her miserable in hopes that she’ll write a better book. Anyway, in this scene, she kind of lets him have it, and it’s a nice moment.

“You don’t have to be miserable to write, you do it because you have to.”

I think about the post I published just a few short weeks ago, in which I lamented that my lack of current suffering was making me a boring writer.

“Because it gnaws away your insides if you try to ignore it.”

I think about how miserable I am when I don’t take time out of my day to write things down, when my head is full of thoughts and ideas and jokes and stories and I just shove them in my mind’s closet and go about my life pretending they aren’t there.

“Because if you don’t write, then you might as well be dead.”

And he’s kind of spellbound by this, partly because he’s in love with her (OH SORRY SPOILER ALERT) and partly because it’s so damn true. That’s the thing about passion. Without it, you’re nothing. I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that not writing = being dead, but it’s certainly a different kind of existence. I know because I’ve tried it, and I didn’t do very well. When you’re a writer, you’re empty without words. When you’re a dancer, you’re empty without movement. That’s just the way things are.

I think maybe if I went back and watched the movie again (which I probably will when I’m not so sleep deprived) I might see a lot more of myself in the protagonist. I mean, I’m not a redheaded Scottish supermodel, for sure, but I think I’m confident calling myself a writer. A failed one, at that, considering how many of my pieces have been rejected by just about every content curator on the internet. A struggling one. Oftentimes a blocked one. It’s nice to see the realities of the writing life played out onscreen – the realities that show the world it’s not always glamorous, and it’s usually painful, but it’s totally worth it.



  1. I really liked how you put it “When you’re a writer, you’re empty without words. When you’re a dancer, you’re empty without movement.” Very true!

    I second the previous comment too. Besides your big break can come anytime. You might look back at this post years from now and think that it was just the beginning of a great writing adventure.

  2. I can relate as an artist, too. Most of my work doesn’t sell, but I keep making it anyway because I start to lose my mind if I don’t. It’s interesting how everyone has a different “thing” that they have to do.

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