Writing is like… By Robin McCormack

I came across a writing meme the other day “Writing is not like a box of chocolates.”  Remember the Forrest Gump quote –

“My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The purpose of the meme was to compare writing to anything but a box a chocolates and simply finish the phrase “Writing is like….?”     I’ve heard some writers say writing is like breathing.    When I first heard someone say writing is as necessary as breathing, I thought wow. What a feeling.  How could I get that feeling?  Reading has always been as necessary as breathing for me all my life.  The desire to read, to explore other worlds, people’s lives, dive into another world for a while.  Escape.  I discovered I get really cranky when I don’t read.  So how do I transfer that feeling to writing?

I wanted to be there, at that level, when I really hadn’t earned it yet.  I’m still a babe in the woods when it comes to fiction writing.   About 5 years ago, after years of working in the corporate world, I finally decided to try my hand at writing.   Finally gave myself license to daydream and explore that hidden side that I had for some unknown reason squelched a long time ago.    I realized I see writing on a whole different level. Maybe because I’ve come to it at a later age and haven’t been doing it all my life.  I realized writing isn’t as necessary as breathing; it is a choice, a love, a desire that has grown over the years.  I discovered that I don’t have a need to write, I want to write.  And because I choose to write, there is a freedom in that.

Speaking of need versus want, a few months back, I came across 31 days to Better Writing Habits.  One of the topics was how toxic language can hinder your writing.  Words such as can’t, should, have to, impossible or need to are considered toxic because they take away your power.  They are negative and limit you.

Use “Can” Instead of “Can’t”–You can do anything you want to do. You can do anything you set your mind to do. It’s been proven over and over and over again. So say “can.” “I can be a writer” and “I can write this novel.”

Use “Want to” Instead of “Should” “Have to” or “Need to”–When you use the phrase “want to” you’re making a choice. It’s no longer being forced on you, you are choosing it. There is power in the phrase “want to” because it shows you have a desire to do something. So say “I want to be a writer” and “I want to write this novel.”

Telling yourself you should do something is taking away your choice. Telling yourself you have to do something is extra pressure and most folks when you tell them they have to do something, will do the opposite. Do you need to write or do you want to write. You don’t need to, you don’t have to, but you want to. You are making a choice to write because you want to. Getting rid of the toxic language gives you back your power.

Getting back to the question – “writing is like….”  It really got me to thinking and I finally realized that for me, writing is like diving into a rushing river and seeing where it will take me.   You give yourself up to the flow of the words, which at times can really be unpredictable.  You never quite know what is around the next bend.  Even though you planned it out, studied it, anticipated what is going to happen, there is always the unexpected.  The rapids carry you along, pulling you every which way, too fast for you to see or think.  The view, passes by in a blur.  You do your best to stay afloat until you able to get clear of the rapids and find a calm spot, take a steadying breath.    Some days the words pour out just like the white water rapids and when you reach the calm spot by the bank, take time to access.  Sometimes all you can say is wow. I did that.

You take a moment to rest in that calm spot, floating along, quietly absorbing the beauty around you.  Then you move back out into the crazy flow again and suddenly it shoots you into an unexpected tributary.  A side trip that could either is soothing or unsettling.  One that gives you insight into your imaginary world.  At times, the water is so clear, you can see the bottom and every single pebble and the fish glistening in the sunlight.  But in a blink of an eye, the water turns muddy. So thick, you can’t see a thing.   Then there are those waterfalls and the sudden drop that takes your breath away.  A writer’s AHA moment.

Writing is like diving into a rushing river and seeing where it takes you.  You can either swim as hard and as fast you can against the current, fighting it all the way or relax and enjoy the journey.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”  Don Williams Jr. 1968


Robin McCormack



  1. Thank you for your encouraging message. I, too, write because I want to, not because I have to. Writing is definately a hobby to me. I tackle my WIP’s whenever time allows. However, when an idea stikes, nothing can keep me away from the keyboard. Thanks again!

  2. Love the message here. I have little time to write. But when I do have time, I definitely write. My WIP seems to be slugging along. However, I know what I want to do. And by golly…I’ll do it!

    Thanks for an encouraging post on a Monday morning. 🙂


  3. Robin ~

    You’ve written a terrific ‘word-picture’ with the river, its different stages, its varying intensity. And I’m with you, ‘wanting-to’ is freeing while ‘having-to’ sort of makes the task a bit like laundry. ~ Nadja

  4. As the head of the Anti-Hyperbole Association (the one that’s just in my head that goes by the acronym A-HA!) I must applaud your position on the writing is like breathing thing. It always sets my teeth on edge.

    Nice post!

  5. I so enjoyed this post and felt for a moment I was wading along side you. I agree wanting is so much better that using the ‘should’ word. I also love writing because it takes me into worlds I haven’t conjured up for myself. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Glad I’m not the only one who started writing as an adult. Writing isn’t a need for me. It’s something I want to do. I actually just wrote about this in answer to a question about who or what was my writing spark. But I felt a little like I was lacking in something, because I didn’t feel the need like some writers describe. It’s something I choose to do because I want to work out the stories in my head, and other people express interest in them. Makes me feel a little better, though I still choose to keep my procrastination in check. I love the river analogy.

  7. Thanks Jaleh,

    Have learned not to compare myself to others, which is easier said than done. We each have our own paths to take, though it nice to know there are others sharing the road, whether they are crossing or diverging in a different direction.

  8. Mom says: I really learned a lot about you, Robin. Bless your heart! Your analogy is so.o.o. right on. Keep up the good work “but is not work to you, right.? Love Mom

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