During her interview, Carol Cassella talked about the difference between the external discipline of medicine and the internal discipline of writing. In medicine, as in most professions, the doctor uses her training to solve problems presented to her by others, namely, patients. The writer, on the other hand, uses her skill to solve problems she created.
I believe it is this internal discipline that has left so many people at the doorstep of writing, unwilling to enter that house alone. I don’t think it occurs to the beginning writer until they have sat down to write their first book just how alone he or she will be in this pursuit. And so, with this idea still fertile in their imagination, a new writer turns away, claiming lack of time, or lack of talent, while all that ever stood between them and writing this story was some idea they had about themselves they were afraid they might discover was true if they sat down alone to write.
No one has to be a writer, but I believe everyone has to enter that house, even if it is only on your deathbed. We are all freer than we are normally willing to admit, and the embodiment of that freedom is our unyielding autonomy, a gift from which we habitually protect each other. Why, left to your own devices, you could do anything, and anything could be wrong. It is why it is sometimes easier to be slave than master, why new democracies erupt in violence, why teenagers, freed from their parents will for a weekend, binge and carouse.
Yet as free as we are, we are all imbued with natural limitations in the form of our own preferences—the stories, and words, and friends, and food we choose every day. These are the natural boundaries of our lives, the walls and windows of the house. Upon entering the house, you discover that the divine freedom that is life is not the freedom to do anything, but the freedom to do anything that makes you happy.