If I have a talent it may be raw stick-to-itiveness. There is a hedgehog quality to how I work, and while it’s not very glamorous it is useful when you’re a writer. Books take a while, and the very first requirement if you want to finish one is a willingness to return to the desk day after day after day. All to the good, but if I’m honest I must admit that what has planted me in my seat some days is the raised whip of fear. It’s a lousy way to start, and it’s not unusual to spend the first fifteen minutes or so disobediently Googling or writing frivolous emails. Eventually I begin and forget about the master and his whip as he is no longer necessary—I have moved from slave to landowner as I recall how much I enjoy tilling the fields.

It is hard to let go of some habits, especially if, however crudely, they appear to be working. But I have recently grown weary of the whip. I was tired of my requisite procrastination; it made me feel childish. But rebellion would merely embolden the master - he knows my fervor will eventually dim and he will return stronger than before, for haven’t I proved in my failure that without him nothing gets done?

No, what is required is full emancipation. And for this, I must replace the master entirely, not merely rage against him. And so one day, as I prepared to work and felt again the threat of the whip, I asked myself, “Why are you doing this anyway?” It was at that moment an image appeared in my mind of a road stretching away from me beyond the horizon. I understood at once where that road would take me and I wanted very much to travel it. And as I thought of the stories I wanted to tell, I saw that to write them would be put me on that road.

I am free to leave the road and I often do, but I see now that in the past I left mostly to test my freedom. Yet no matter how often I left, I felt compelled to return. That this compulsion felt like slavery is just the remnant of an old rebellion against all the shoulds and musts I’ve listened to in my life. There is nothing to rebel against. The road requires no validation or justification. To be on it is to know the true pleasure of freedom, the simplest freedom of all, to choose those things we love the most.

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