I just had an interesting conversation with the young lady who lives next door.
First, a bit of background: the flats I live in have balconies (or what passes for balconies in Britain—in the States my balcony measured 5 by 22 feet, here I can fit a chair out there with just enough room left over for me to sit in it) and while it is not expressly forbidden to smoke in these flats (well, in mine it is) most people seem to regard the balconies as al fresco smoking rooms.
This is how I met the young lady from next door; she and her partner are both smokers and, while I'm out there with a cigar and a beverage enjoying the English climate, they occasionally pop out for a fag. So I knew she was in her final year at uni and I knew she was working on some essays, which are due before they break up for the holidays.
When I asked about them, at 8 o'clock in the evening, she said she was working on both of them at once and needed to have them completed by the following morning. Not an enviable task.
So I told her about the writing I was doing and about how, as it was not due anywhere at any time, I couldn't be arsed to work on it so I was having a cigar instead. She was curious as to why, if no one was forcing me, I was bothering to write anything at all.
"Well, it's for my web page."
"Is anyone waiting for it?"
"No, not really. I just sort of post things there."
"But you don't have to."
"No, it's just, well, it's what I do."
I might have told her that some people putter in the garden or build scale models of Buckingham Palace out of toothpicks or stand on train platforms writing down numbers, and what I'm doing is basically the same except it doesn't cost as much and I get to do it from the comfort of my living room. I might have told her that, to give her an insight into the psyche of the writer, but I didn't. So, instead of an understanding nod, she gave me one of those skeptical smiles you give to people who show you their scale model of Buckingham Palace made entirely out of toothpicks, stubbed out her cigarette and returned to her work. Because she had to.
And I finished my cigar, went back inside and went back to my writing. Not because I had to, but because I'm a writer, and that's what we do.