It’s something of a contradiction, I feel, to state that writing be just a self indulgence.
A friend of mine, and a friend whose opinion means a lot to me because she has a quite brilliant mind, suggested this; she stated that writing is a self-indulgence which allows the writer to spend inordinate amounts of time focusing inwards and staring at their own naval.
I wasn’t sure I agreed, and, as a writer, ended up spending quite some time afterwards considering her words and their inherent validity. I felt quite passionately that I needed to contradict her opinion and the statement she was making.
Writing is a chore: it is often a painful, long winded and troublesome process. We must devote time to write, we must expend energy to write. Unless we are naturally brilliant we must exercise our writer’s muscles regularly to improve in our craft. We cannot be lazy and expect to succeed in the ways that we wish to.
So, how can writing be a self indulgence, but also such an arduous, long-winded, difficult pursuit. How can it be indulgence and hard-work? I think that the answers lay in the complexity of the writers mind.
The enjoyment which comes from writing is found at the intercept between the idea itself, and the work put in trying to explore and express the idea.
Most writers have something they wish to express, they have something they wish to share, or to impart. And they want to share it because they believe it to be important or significant in some manner. This is like an extension of their own ego or psyche: there is something in them which craves recognition, craves publication.
So this could be defined or described as self-indulgence, however it is possible to argue this as both a positive or a negative. There is something courageous in the act of writing, something brave about the intimate process of expressing oneself, for the writer chooses his or her own words, rhythm and tone and bares his or her soul to the world. They impart and leave behind a little bit of themself, woven in between the lines of their of text.
Self indulgence can be taken to mean that the writer indulges their own sense of self for a while and in a fashion. However perhaps our self needs to be indulged. Does it not cry out for release, for expression, for interpretation? I think that perhaps it does, and this should not be viewed as negative but something very powerful, brave and cathartic.
It is strange that us writers are often apologetic, for baring our souls and indulging the part of us which screams out for attention. Why should we be? For that is where the passion lies, that is where the fire burns- and usually, where a message is found. We feel humbled by this process, why? We are daring to take what is deeply private, personal, internal- and sharing it with other living breathing people. We are voicing secrets, putting words to musings, wonderings and all the half formed thoughts and meanings of the self, the soul and the subconscious.
It is like we acknowledge that act of secret telling, we acknowledge the way we unearth deep-rooted bulbs and seeds, things which don’t normally see the light of day. We dip our point of focus into the deep dark and we pull out meaning and the stuff which seems to validate our selves. We are like fisherman round the great lake of thoughts and ideas; we must exert ourselves to grasp the things which hold the meaning and it is likely that the more blood sweat and tears we expel the closer we get to that good catch, that big fish.
Perhaps to indulge the self one must push the mind and body, one must work hard, struggle to squeeze out those words which somehow make the internal pressure lessen.
It is self indulgent, but it is also inherently painful, because nothing that is pulled up from the deep parts of the psyche comes easily- nothing with any real meaning comes cheap. We as writers know this, and so we scratch that itch until it bleeds and when it’s all up and out we can stop, because with the blood comes truth. We know it’s not easy, we know nothing true comes for free, but our desire to express something, to release something is stronger than our desire to stay easy and peaceful.
For myself, as a writer, it’s as though bubbles rise up from the deep, and I want to know where they came from- whether or not there is more, whether there are creatures down there in the dark, heavy water.
Or perhaps I already see through the eyes of those creatures and that is why sometimes I scream out for the relief of expression and at the same time feel that scream, that screech from somewhere within me that needs to be located and mirrored with words.
Words need to be committed to find contentment of any kind.
So, in conclusion, writing is a form of self indulgence yes, because it allows the writer to spend time concentrating on aspects of their self which are deep and personal and perhaps not visible to other people day to day and moment to moment. However this is not a purely easy or enjoyable process. The writer is guided by his or her own internal rhythms and personal intuitions, and spends time considering and working with their own subjectivity in a way which others might not, and for that reason may end up in places which are harder to navigate, and harder to come back from.
These acts of writing are extensions of the ego yes, but also flames of the spirit.