I always sort of believed that writing would take care of itself, that even if I was never published or read, even if I was miserable, writing would somehow improve my lot. That's the lie that well-meaning teachers and authors of writing books like to repeat, and the lie we have to tell ourselves to keep going: the Good will somehow, even if on a transcendently moral level, come out on top (Good=writers, in this instance. Try not to think about that too much.). When I write, my overarching mental state is one of extreme cognitive dissonance: I tell myself I'm doing important work, even if it's not exactly affecting anybody.
But some of the time, the dissonance wears off and reality confronts me: there just doesn't seem to be any point to writing. What has it gotten me, really? Deeper self-awareness? Big fucking deal. Sometimes I’d rather be more aware of the greater world. I write to communicate; I don’t know how to talk to people, so I write. But in that regard, my writing life has been an utter failure, since most of what I've written sits sadly in my hard drive, or (best case scenario) in a literary magazine's slushpile, communicated only to the imaginary friends* I've never fully shed.
What has writing not gotten me? In the time I don't spend writing, I could be making my yard into a not-jungle. I could be exercising, so I wouldn't be so fat. I could have a real job and make actual real legal tender money so I could take my kids to the doctor and shit.** I've wasted many evenings perfecting sentences on the page when I could have been out perfecting conversation and making real friends with real brains. I could be on for my kids, instead of doing my best to tune them out so I can think about what I’m going to write in that rare, weary moment at the end of the day or before the day has begun, when I can steal some alone time.
Don't mistake all this to mean that I don't love writing. I do. I love the blank page, I love the words that roll out initially, when nobody's watching, I love dictionaries and etymologies, I grow to love my characters and find myself engrossed in their conversations.
That's how I feel about the first draft. Then I read it, and it's something I want to destroy, something I wish I'd never brought into existence. Bile. Centipedes. A hangover. It's like when I take my kids to the playground, and there's all this promise, all this fun, and then while we are digging in the sand my hand squishes into a pile of cat shit. Well, that's never actually happened, but if it did, it would kind of ruin my time at the playground, and I'd have to go home and wash up, and my kids would be crying, and they would hate me for making them leave early, and then I'd run into a neighbor as I was walking home, and they'd want to chat, and I'd have to either stand there stinking and trying to hide my catshit-covered hand, or explain that I had to go home and wash the shit off my hand. That's how it is every time I write something. It's a ball of fun, marred by the outcome. Promise, then shit. And people pissed off at/grossed out by me.
Eh. Ignore the shit. It's the best we can do. I guess.
*Yeah, I had two when I was a kid. Creso and Seekos.
**I'm sacrificing my kids' future for a laughable dream.