You Have a Sun Inside You

by Michael Candelario

January 2017

I am sitting here in front of a framed painting of a map from my first fantasy book, writing an article while my wife cleans the house and balances the checkbook and deals with the stress of having a freelance writer for a husband. Chaos, these days, is a constant factor in our lives. So why do we do this to ourselves, we writers? Why do we slog away writing and revising and re-revising our books and stories? Why do we slave over the tiniest grammatical mistakes and turns of phrase?

In seeking an answer to that question, I am drawn back to a conversation I had years ago with a couple of writer friends. We were all just out of college, fresh and green to the Sisyphean struggle ahead of us, and someone spit out what has become a sort of mantra of mine:

“You have a sun inside you.”

But let me backtrack.

Picture me, working a retail job to make ends meet, hunched down in the backroom of the discount outlet, assembling furniture on hands and knees. The concrete floor is hard, it does not give against my shins, and I am on the brink of weeping. See, I have forgotten a crucial part of my existence. In the pursuit of making ends meet, I have ceased to write. It is as if my dream has been crushed. It is as if everything on which I pinned the future has crumbled in my hands. And I feel, in a word, empty. My soul is unnourished. I feel dry, washed up at the age of twenty-five. My family is counting on me, and here I am doing something that fails to water my spirit, and making a pittance besides. You would not be wrong for pitying me.

Yet, I had it wrong back then. I thought the issue was that I worked a menial job -- that I was not making a fortune. I cannot stress this enough: this was not the problem. The true issue -- the reason I was close to weeping in the back of that store, and the reason I felt dried up inside like a withered leaf -- was that I had forgotten about the sun inside me.

What bothered me was not that I wasn’t making money -- many writers do not make a living off their novels or short stories. Inside my brain, the characters cried out to me, begging to be written into being. The worlds in my head pleaded with me to give them life. And so, though it meant leaving a consistent (if small) paycheck, I decided that the only thing that would nourish me as a human being was to write -- to release the sun inside me, to let it flare out as much as I could. Reader, I have felt the pressure of an inner supernova, and I know that it cannot be dimmed.

Let me illustrate why monetary success was not the issue. Let me show you why the true heart of a writer is a burning star. Two of my friends, like me, have self-published books. One of them, like me, has seen minimal sales and supplements her income by freelancing and copywriting (note that even in supplementing income, the sun inside us makes us write). The other is one of the poster boys of self-publishing, having experienced unprecedented success with his books. Yet the interesting thing about the two cases is that neither of the two authors has ceased to write. This confirms that the twin drives for financial success and widespread recognition are not the overwhelming motivation of the true writer. Even when my friend achieved those heights, his writing did not slow. He has a sun inside himself, and it will not be tamed. The goal is not to make a certain amount of money -- though none among us would turn down a nice paycheck. The goal, quite simply, is to relieve the pressure. We write because we must. We have to. Otherwise we dry up, gravity sucking everything into our cores until, finally, we explode and are consumed.

So I sit here, in front of a framed painting of the map from my first fantasy book, thinking about why it is I need to write. And I watch my wife and my two children play a board-game in the living room. And I smile. Because I know that, yes, writing is a struggle. But the very fact that I continue to press on is what makes me a writer. See, I have a sun inside me. I must let it flare out from time to time. I have seen what happens when I try to tame its power. I know that I cannot go down that path again.