I want to write.
I opened a blank Word document to type that phrase so I could see it and engrain it on my brain. I need a reminder. It should be simple. If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll do it, right? Yeah, that would be nice but we all know it’s never that easy. Wants are often put aside for needs. We need to work. We need to make money so we can provide food and shelter to those who depend on us. But upon typing that unassuming four word sentence, I discovered a different problem, one that transcends the battle between need and want. Here’s the thing: I need to write and needs are required to sustain life.
Technically, want and need are synonyms. Really, they are. Check any thesaurus. I did, to make sure I wasn’t lying to you. But I find them to be very different. I like to believe that need existed before want. I often wonder if there was a point in time where humanity looked around and found everything they needed to survive and then they invented the concept of want to keep from getting bored. Now, we live in a society full of want. Wants come in the form of tired, white-collar workers longing for their morning cup of coffee, in spoiled children stomping their feet to demand a new toy, in shoppers who see a new item they just have to have. If you asked any one of them why, there’s a fair chance they would respond with, “Because I need it.” We’ve been taught to need and want interchangeably. This often happens in places where basic human requirements are met.
At the very core, want is about desire. The worker desires a morning coffee. The child desires a new toy. The shopper desires a new product. That’s what makes want differ from need. Need equals necessity. The worker, the child, the shopper, they need food and water. Without that, they wouldn’t be able to express their wants at all.
Like humans need water and food to keep on living and wanting, so do we need our passions. Not nourishing them is hunger; a gnawing deep within the gut. It’s thirst, a dizziness like dehydration. It’s death if you ignore the hunger and the thirst. When a need is not met, the body shrivels and the mind unravels. There’s desperation and sickness and pain.
When writing was just a want, I stopped doing it. Life got busy. Excuses came easily. But for me, not writing is like going through life with a perpetually empty stomach and a parched throat. Because when need and passion entwine, we scoff at it. Even worse, when one of your needs is to nurture a passion, you can talk yourself out of it. Ironically, I could write a book filled with reasons why I shouldn’t write. Writing won’t make any money. Writing isn’t a serious career. My ideas aren’t good enough. No one wants to hear what I have to say. I don’t have enough time. Now try and say the same things about eating or drinking. It’s ridiculous, right? Do you let others talk you out of staying hydrated and nourishing your body? Do you talk yourself out of it? No. Because there’s only two choices: do it or die.
Having a passion is being compelled, required, obligated to do something you were meant to do. Passion is need, not want. My passion is writing. Even when I wasn’t writing, I felt the compulsion to do it constantly weighing on me. I chose not to nourish it and my body and mind suffered greatly for it. When we feel that burning passion, that compulsion to create, we treat it as a want and set it on the backburner for more conventional needs. She wants to be an artist. He wants to be a musician. But it’s so much more than that when someone feels called to create. She may want to be an artist but she needs to make art because her eyes see the world and her brain is already painting it. He might want to be a musician but he needs to make music because his soul sings to him. And if they let their needs be downgraded to wants that are never fulfilled, part of them dies. The important part that makes magic and reality one in the same.
Yes, I want to be a writer but I need to write. Even if I never made a dime, even if my words never reached a single person, I would still do it. Words run through my veins instead of blood. I need to bleed onto the blank page and leave myself there. So I will write because I’m tired of walking through the world with an unfilled stomach and a dry mouth.
Are there any needs that you’re treating like wants?