I think we all have an itch, mine is writing. I like to knit, sew, embroider. Coming in from the garden with the smell of fresh earth still about me or placing a melt-in-the-mouth meal in front of my family makes my soul sing. Spending time with a good book or laying out in the sun warms me to my toes. But if I miss these things, if life takes over and the craft lays idle, if the weeds take over the garden and our main food group is 'defrosted'. If the only book I open is the Bible, and only at the Appointed Times, and the sun hides its face for a while. I sigh and simply get on with life, knowing a change of season will come. If I don't get to write though.... Paragraphs compose, rearrange, polish and refine themselves in my mind. I will drift off mid-conversation, contemplating a stray word, concept, fragment of an idea. My mind will whir as I get into bed, stories, characters, concepts fighting for air space in my thoughts.
So I sit down, fingers to keys, to write. Then silence falls. The sonnets still to single syllables. The poems fall silent and still, hiding themselves and stilling the exquisite song they had whispered to me. Essays become dry and lifeless and stories, trite and cliche. The temptation is to leave it. Surely there are more important things with which to fill my time? But I know the itch will return, compelling me to come and try again. Besides, if I fail to improve what I have, add interest to the talents with which I am entrusted, I know well the fate that awaits me. So I groan at the keyboard, gnash my teeth at the monitor, set writing goals and make myself just keep hitting the keys. I squeeze in some time with a pen and a journal while the children play or sleep. I edit and rewrite in my head a thousand times before my fingers hit the keys.
It is a compulsion, and itch, rather than a sweet enticement. I know very few writers who actually ENJOY writing. Oh, the initial drafting is fun for those rare moments when it just flows and tossing around of ideas is lively and amusing. But the craft? Michael Angelo said once of a statue he created "I saw an angel in the marble and I carved until I set it free." So we carve. Covered in dust, chips showering us. Muscles cramped and fatigue dogging our heels. Then all of a sudden, we sit back and look at the whole. And sometimes, very rarely, we set an angel free.