"Why do you carry that thing around?" she asks for probably the hundredth time. "What have you got in there? Bricks?"
It's my shoulder bag she's referring to. Yes, it's heavy (heavy enough that at the end of a day carrying it and MachineBoy around, I can feel the muscles in my shoulder and neck protesting. I stretch and stretch, roll my head this way and that, but only sleep will relieve it, and tomorrow I will carry it off to work, and to lunch, and home, and wherever we go in the afternoon on my half-Saturday with the two people in Singapore that I love.
And no, I never adequately explain to her why I take all the junk inside virtually everywhere I (we) go. Inside, if you cared to look, you'd find a massive notebook/sketchbook, a pencil case stuffed with all manner of pens, pencils, erasers, correction tape, scissors, etc. You'd find a book or two, currently whatever A-Level literature I'm plowing through and whatever genre fiction I read whenever I've had enough of literature. You'd find scraps of notes, my little digital camera, and odds and ends from my last outing with the son (pacifier chain, food-crusty bib, whatever). But the important thing is the notebook.
"Why do you carry that thing around? You hate your back issit?"
I carry it around because it is a constant reminder that I am a writer. I carry it everywhere because it reminds me that I am supposed to be observing, and writing. Because it would be damned easy to slip into the rut of everyday life. To forget what, at the core, I hold myself accountable for being. It would be supremely easy for me to let myself slip into the rhythm of work home parenthood. It's a solitary business that's a shitload of work, has taken me years to become proficient at, and has damn few rewards besides the rare sliver of self-satisfaction.
Let me tell you a secret: Nobody wants you to write.
It's true. I don't care what they say. Your mom doesn't want you to write. Your significant other doesn't want you to write. Your boss doesn't want you to write, nor do your friends, nor your children, nor do editors or publishers. Other writers don't want you to write. Comprende? NOBODY wants you to write, ok? They don't. Those who love you resent the time you spend away from them, mentally if not physically, even if they never tell you. They want you, not your words.
Those who you send your words off to? They want to see another submission like they want to develop leukemia. You're just a literary telemarketer, sucking up time they could be spending working on proven talent (aka profitable writers), or working on their own novel. And sometimes, if they've had an especially bad day, or your submission is especially craptacular, they'll let you know in no uncertain terms that you'd be better off doing something (anything) else besides writing.
The only person who wants you to write, my friend, is a person who you will most likely never meet. The one I call Dear Reader. Stephen King has millions of Dear Readers; I have no idea how many I have, but it can't be more than, say, 50. On a good day, 50. And while I care about Dear Reader, I don't write for D.R.: I write because I am a writer.
And that's why I 'carry bricks' around in my gray Eastpack shoulder bag and give myself a pretty-much constant crick in the neck. Because I have a vocation, and that vocation requires certain tools. I need to be ready at all times, and I need the solid, slightly uncomfortable weight of my bag to remind me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life besides loving my wife and son. Without that constant weight, I am afraid I might well forget about it. And if I do that, a big piece of me will be lost. I would be diminished.
I don't mind failing; but not trying is not acceptable.