It has never been a choice for me. Just a feeling I get. It starts with a kind of rumbling, almost like an earthquake from the dark pit of my stomach. Then the tremors extend to my peripheral limbs, and something in my brain clicks — time to write. If I try to resist, I start to get this throbbing headache. If I can endure the headache of not writing for any significant amount of time, my stomach starts to feel like it’s going to burst. I will have diarrhea. From there, I start running a 102-degree fever and feeling nauseous. I get a burning at the top of my spine that makes it impossible to walk. The whites of my eyes turn yellow, and I can hardly move my fingers.

Is this what the greats always talk about? I think I feel what Paul Auster must have felt when he said, “You don’t choose to write; it chooses you.” Or when Rilke said, “Art can only come out of necessity.” Or when Hemingway once pondered, “Writing is the only way to stop the severe rectal bleeding.” It’s because of this itch to write that I know I was meant to do this.

Completing my 902-page novel, which I based off of a highly-skilled wizard ninja that I made up as a seven-year-old, was not merely a personal goal; it was something I owed the world. If I had the choice to not go through the unbearable pains of being a writer, to not bleed out all over the pages, then you better bet that I would just be a regular Joe like everyone else. But we don’t control our own destinies. I can’t help that I was born to write. And I certainly can’t help that if I choose to stop writing for more than a day, my airways begin collapsing and I have to be sent to the emergency room to have my lungs injected with a steroid from an eleven-inch needle.

As such, my life becomes about what I can control. I turn my pain into art, out of necessity. When DiAngelo — the protagonist from the kingdom of Brightville who is just as skilled in the dark arts as he is swordsmanship — is forced to leave his fiancée so that he can defeat the Dark Shadows, it is not just a commentary on the sacrifices that a true warrior must make to finish their mission, but also a metaphor for the painstaking writing process that I endure in order to avoid having another middle ear infection.

All I can do is keep going. I know that if I don’t, I will have robbed the world of something essential. It is stories like mine — the rare stories, the ones that are really meant to be written — that demand the most from their writers. I did not ask to be given the path of a writer, just as DiAngelo did not ask to be a warrior. I am tired. I am filled with the pain that all great artists suffer. Yet still, I trek on. For if I stop writing, I might succumb to genital warts.