to have written

Writers don’t want to write, the saying goes. They want “to have written.” (I think I’ve mentioned this on the humble blog before.) The point is that the hard work of writing isn’t necessarily what a writer wants (at least all of the time). Rather, he or she wants to warm after-glow of having the work finished. I suppose the same is the case with running. Do I really want to be out there pounding the pavement in my Brooks? Panting and sweating and wishing I was home in bed where everyone else is? (Yes. It’s true. I really do rise at 3:30 two days a week to run five miles. And on the weekends I rise at 2:30 to write! It’s also true.)

And do I want to be up at 2:30 writing? Well, yes, I do. (Odd, what I’ve become.) We’re all different, we writers. But a fellow I correspond with regularly has said that he appreciates the fact that he can call himself a writer. This distinguishes him from the rest of humanity. That great, unwashed species most of us are a part of. (Some of you, I’m certain, are something superhuman.) And so it is with my early mornings and my solitary writing sessions. It’s Me time. It’s what I do that no one else can do. It’s my uniqueness. It lets me call myself a writer. And when the words are flowing, it’s bliss. You know what I’m talking about. You know if the bliss has ever hit you. (Coincidentally, I think I had my first intense case of “runner’s high” last week. Several hours after an early morning run, I saw the world as a beautiful place. I was weepy about everything, and everything was just wonderful. The mood passed eventually, but it was a different place for me for an hour or so.)

So I really do want to write (as well as to have written). It’s a state that’s really unmatched in my day-to-day life. The wrestling with words. The moments of revelation. The satisfaction of getting the words down (even if I’m going to rearrange and replace most of them later.) The moments of knowing that I’ve said it exactly right. Of being a writer.

What about you? Does any of this make sense in terms of your experience? Do you want to write or to have written?

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5 Comments on “to have written”


  1. For me, it’s definitely about writing. Like you, it’s that feeling that I’m up early, doing my thing. It’s seeing those new paths in a story and the challenges that get in the way. Example: the novel I’m working on, I was sure I knew where the next couple chapters were going. Something I hadn’t planned popped up in a chapter affecting what follows. Just like that, I was faced with a sense of, “I now don’t know where the next chapters are going.” And, for me, that make writing fun — that challenge of things constantly changing along the way.

    Having written…it’s good, I suppose. It’s satisfying when you print that final draft and there’s this pile of paper sitting on the desk. It’s nice being reminded that “I can do this!” But once you’re done, you jump back in to the best part: writing something new.

    Running. I seem to remember running…

    I need to get back to that.

  2. Pete Says:

    Every morning, I get up at 5 a.m. to feed the cat. (He’s very noisy and persistent, and when he’s hungry there’s no sleep for anyone in the house.) After he’s fed, on weekdays I stay up and get ready for work, but on weekends I’ve typically gone right back to bed. But for the last three Saturdays, I’ve stayed up to revise the story collection I’ve neglected for too long (along with everything else – I hadn’t written or revised anything for six months). I’ve really enjoyed the quiet time – just me, my manuscript, a pot of coffee and my iPod in our breakfast nook as the sky outside eases from blackness to daylight – but even more so the feeling of creativity and accomplishment. True, I definitely feel the sleep deprivation later in the day (my body really appreciates those two or three extra hours of shut-eye) and often fall asleep on the couch in mid-evening, but the fatigue is worth it. I’m even getting to the point where I look forward to my Saturday morning writing sessions, and don’t regret the lost sleep. (Though I do, however, still try to sleep in on Sundays. But even that might change.)

  3. Annam Says:

    I believe each of us must find that which is awe-inspiring and pursue it to the fullest. It is the only way to live.


  4. I nodded in agreement with everything you said here (except for the part about getting up at 2:30 or 3:30, crazy man).

    Side note: For the first time after six or seven years of running a few miles intermittently, I finally have the rhythm or will to keep going and not want to stop every few minutes. Not quite a runner’s high, but a good feeling nonetheless.

  5. Averil Dean Says:

    I love that you feel this way but unfortunately find myself in the ‘to have written’ camp. Just something to work with, the merest skeleton of a draft will do me; it’s the blank white page that I find so frightening.

    I was up at 2:30 this morning, myself. Writing. I wish I could be so cheerful about it.


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