I Can’t Not Write

The other week Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Literature, spoke at Claremont at the Athenaeum.

He said something really profound: When people ask him why he writes, he says, among other things, that he can’t not write.

Writing may make you miserable, but it makes you less miserable than other pursuits.

The day after Pamuk’s speech, I was on the phone with some business undergrads. They asked if I was going to start more companies in the future. I pondered the question, and then answered, “Yes. It’s not that I love business or entrepreneurship so much. In fact, I find other disciplines more stimulating. But it’s that I can’t not start more companies. There’s some entrepreneurial bone within me that I’m sure will force me to start more things in the future.”

What do you do not because you necessarily love it, but because you can’t not do it?

7 Responses to I Can’t Not Write

  1. I studied both theater and music as an undergrad, and I noticed that this was the difference between me and some of the other students. While I enjoyed learning about the crafts, I wasn’t as motivated as some of the other students. Some of my classmates have gone on to have successful TV, film and music careers (brushes with greatness: Jeri Ryan was in my German class and David Schwimmer was a couple years ahead of me), but others are just as happy working in community theater and orchestras because theater and music are deeply felt needs.

  2. Steve E says:

    “Isn’t one’s pain quotient shocking enough without fictional amplification, without giving things an intensity that is ephemeral in life and sometimes even unseen? Not for some. For some very, very few that amplification, evolving uncertainly out of nothing, constitutes their only assurance, and the unlived, the surmise, fully drawn in print on paper, is the life whose meaning comes to matter most.”

    This is great writer Philip Roth, speaking in the voice of Nathan Zuckerman, the narrator of his most recent novel.

  3. rhhfla says:

    What can I not do? Teach–the most demanding way to learn something. I think this is probably true for a lot of great teachers

  4. Micah Stanley says:

    Great post. That’s the way I have felt about my priorities for the past four years. It’s not that I randomly choose what to focus on and what to ignore; it’s that I don’t feel right about myself unless I pursue what I’m passionate about. It may seem against all reason at times, but I’ll continue to pursue my passion because I can’t ignore it.

  5. Jude says:

    I suppose that I can’t not volunteer, especially working with kids. I give a nature walk once a year to Cub Scouts, and for that one event, I’ve purchased numerous tracks, taken a spider biology course, learned about all sorts of things–all to make those two days better. This year I’m adding scat and tree rings. The walk is in June, but improving it is always in the back of my mind. I lead cemetery tours for 3rd graders twice a year. I’m always trying to make that tour better. I do presentations for free. I spent many free hours over the last 6 weeks helping my student Rogelio study for a CDL license. I can’t not volunteer.

  6. Krishna says:

    I just can’t let someone, worthy of my attention, get away with a weak, for the moment’s sake, hypocritical argument on issues that I care about deeply, especially when it’s obvious that it’s hollow, comes unnaturally seeking not much more than momentary stardom.

    It’s fun to watch the brave face (s)he is putting up is betrayed by that salty smell of urine running down his/her leg.

  7. Mary Ker says:

    I can’t not read–anything, but mostly nonfiction in a wide, wide variety of fields, from archeology to economics. When I’m not reading, I am a visual artist, mostly in clay and metals, and I can’t not do that, either. Lastly, I can’t not pursue my spiritual aims. I sound so driven! But that isn’t how I experience life. For me it’s all pull, not push.

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