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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Reclusive Writer

The writing process is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. You spend hours on end staring at a notebook or computer screen trying the fill the white space, sifting through the tackle box of prose and syntax. This is a dream job for the introverted hermit, but the attention deficient, multitasking, social butterflies beware.

Writing isn’t something you talk about. It’s something you do and what others find out. I’ve lost count of people who claim to love to write but never put a pen to paper long enough to complete a chapter. Writers, even bad ones, can’t wait to write, and will write on anything or on anyone. They live in the compulsive state of now. “I have to get this idea down right away.”

No excuse is sufficient to not get in that last sentence, that last paragraph, that last page. Sleep, appetite, and all concepts of time are lost. Friends are thrown by the wayside, family is left to fend for themselves, and you can only pray that the house doesn’t catch fire. Though selfish, the writer’s demands are small. “Leave me the hell alone and I just might let you read it when I’m done.” A fresh notebook, a bottomless cup of coffee, and quiet are gifts from the gods.

The only thing that can stop the momentum is the tortuous impairment of writer’s block. For weeks, sometimes months, the writer suffers from a type of literary detox, twitching and itching for one word of inspiration, one hit of imagination. As creatures of habit, to not write is to lose the ability to walk. The simple act of standing upright is a privilege, not a right, and to forgo it is never a voluntary choice.

The littlest things can bring sensations back to the dead limbs and begin mobility. A tiny spark of possibility can ignite an inferno of new concepts. This onslaught is similar to being trapped in a game show money vault. Dollar bills are flying and you need to snatch every piece before time runs out.
It doesn’t help when people outside pound against the glass, making demands. “Come hang out with us.” “What’s for dinner?” “You’re still wasting time with that writing thing?”

You could have created the most profound metaphor in the history of the written word and no one will care like you do. Just as no one will love your kids as you do. You are more forgiving of their faults because it’s an extension of yourself. Anything you create is an adaptation of itself and to offend it is to offend its creator. So yes, there will be a lot of times where people will steer clear when you turn into Golem from Lord of the Rings over your latest masterpiece.

But if you are like me, a little nutty, the characters in your stories keep you company. The four walls around you crumble against the magnitude of the world within, that small organ with infinite space and with no true unit of measure. Writing is the only way for brain matter to splatter against paper without dying. But even in this instance, it’s always best to not have people around to witness the blast. Someone might get hurt.

5 comments:

  1. Hi there! Following along on your blogging journey.:)

    This is soooo true: "No excuse is sufficient to not get in that last sentence, that last paragraph, that last page. Sleep, appetite, and all concepts of time are lost. Friends are thrown by the wayside, family is left to fend for themselves, and you can only pray that the house doesn’t catch fire. Though selfish, the writer’s demands are small. “Leave me the hell alone and I just might let you read it when I’m done.”"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! It's so good to know that I'm not crazy alone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jamie,
    I can totally relate to this post. I began writing my first YA novel in November. It is a total obsession with me. I would rather write than do anything else. I am sure people (especially my family) think I'm crazy. I have a notebook in my hand constantly and am always jotting things down. The worst is the guilt... for kicking them out of my office because I am "in the zone" and they threaten to derail my thought process, for thrusting more independence upon my kids, the list goes on...

    ReplyDelete
  4. TL Summer,
    Thanks!
    Writing is a lonely job. No one will understand you but you...and other writers. At the same time no one can say what you have to say, but you. The trick is to find the ballance. You NEED to express yourself, but you don't want to look up from the computer screen and see you 10 month old kid in a cap and gown, ready to graduate. If you find a way to do this, let me know cause I haven't yet.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am exactly one year behind in my work, the paying kind.

    My WIP, the unpublished, unpaying kind, is coming on along nicely though. Tee Hee!

    ReplyDelete

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