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Writing is not a job, it’s a way of life

by Youmna El Halabi October 15, 2019
Writing is not a job, it’s a way of life

On a cold, autumnal weekend, I curled up on my couch, hot chocolate in hand, ready to watch Eat, Pray, Love. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, it’s the story of Gilbert herself – played by Julia Roberts – in a borderline existential crisis, unhappy in her marriage, unsatisfied with her personal life, struggling to find herself. Ultimately, she buys three tickets to Italy, India, and Bali to get a new perspective.

Personally, I have always been a fan of the “Eat” part of this movie. Watching Roberts down all the carbs Italy had to offer is all the spiritual journey I need in my life.

However, in that first part of her quest for self-discovery, there is a scene that has always bothered me. A simple detail that may have gone unnoticed by most.

Roberts’ character is having lunch with some friends when they start brainstorming words to describe the various cities they’ve been to.

“Stockholm?”  “Conform.”

“New York?” “Ambition, or sut.”

“Rome?” “SEX!”

Then one of her friends asks her what she believed to be her word. After a few musings, she confidently states, “my word is writer.”

“Yeah, but that’s what you do,” her friend tells her. “It isn’t what you are.”

Liz quietly chews her food and ponders that thought, while I got ready to hurl my mug at the TV screen. If I were Elizabeth Gilbert, as soon as he had uttered those words, I would have put down my fork, stared straight into his eyes, and said:

“Have you ever woken up from a restless night because thoughts were being translated into words, and you just had to get them out? A feeling so strong that the need to find a pen and paper seemed paramount? The words escaping you; your hand moving so fast that your writing would be unintelligible to anyone but yourself? Have you ever felt a lump form in your throat, and nothing could appease it t, but to bleed on paper? Have you ever been in a place so captivating that you just had to describe it down to every single detail, because pictures could never express how it made you feel? Has a thought ever crossed you, and made you reach for your bag, cursing to yourself when you realize you’ve forgotten your notebook at home? Have you ever smiled at the simple sound of how a word made you feel? Until you’ve felt the pain of not being able to pour your words on paper, until you’ve laid your soul bare between the pages of your notebooks; until you’ve felt the magic in your fingertips as you type or write your words, you don’t get to tell me writing is just a job. You don’t get to tell me it doesn’t consume every fibre of my being. Because you don’t question an athlete’s love for a sport. You don’t put in question a musician’s passion, or a painter’s consuming art. So why do you question a writer’s?”

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

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