With each passing year that I’ve spent writing, the more I’ve come to conclude that this pursuit is something that suits those a bit –uhm—shall we say, off-kilter from main-stream humanity. I’m not saying all writers are crazy, or even most of ‘em. That’s not for me to say. And perhaps it’s a chicken/egg conundrum…does insanity lead to writing, or writing to insanity. That’s something we could debate at great length. But certain element s of writing fiction are un-debatable, and seem to go hand in hand with a certain degree of questionable mental reasoning. Let’s look at the facts.
We (okay, let me rephrase that. I. Me. I’ll speak for myself. If any of you see certain similar behaviors, or others I don’t touch upon, feel free to chime in) spend much of our time alone, in a semi-distracted state, mumbling to ourselves about imaginary people. Imaginary people that we create in our heads. But it’s not enough simply to create these characters. We create entire worlds for them. Lives, back-stories, likes, dislikes, quirks. We can even hear their voices in our heads, and the more real they become, the more they won’t shut up. We try to make them likeable, or at least relatable. Then we proceed to wreck their tidy little lives. They start off happy, but our goal is to make them suffer. It doesn’t matter whether they are the hero or villain – the worse off they are, the happier we are. We build worlds just to crush them. And furthermore, we destroy/kill them in the most creative ways possible. Spray-foam, anyone? Every time I hear something unspeakably awful, I get a gleam in my eyes that makes others uneasy, and a corner of my brain starts dancing with perverse delight – ‘Hmmm? Could I kill X that way?’ What does that say about me?
People wonder where we get our ideas. But as writers, it’s more a case of where DON’T we? Ideas are everywhere, bombarding our brains at every waking hour, and creeping through our dreams even as we try to sleep. Then we take those ideas, and build a world of lies around them. In most areas of polite society, lying is frowned upon. But as a fiction writer, it’s a vital talent. It’s critical to our survival. Truthfully, the truth doesn’t make for compelling stories, at least in my book. But fiction…what is fiction, really? It’s a writer telling a story completely made up of made-up stuff. And what is made-up stuff? It’s lies. Nothing but lies. And the better we tell them, the better our stories are for it.
We do things most sane people might question. For example, consider our dietary habits. I once went three weeks on mostly Cheez-Its. It wasn’t pretty. And don’t get me started with caffeine. Our work areas can be somewhat telling as well, and I’m not just talking the empty snack-food wrappers, half-drained coffee cups, and dog-eared copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Look around your computer. Worse yet, ON your computer. What sort of disturbing things – things that at minimum might bring you under the scrutiny of some government watch lists – have you bookmarked, and consider what people might conclude if you couldn’t qualify it with that happy explanation: “But I’m a writer.” See what I mean? Perhaps we’re drawn to writing because others accept, and even expect, that as writers, we’re not *quite* right, in that intriguing, somewhat eccentric way. “It’s okay… she’s a writer.”
Finally, consider WHY we write. Is it for the money? Seriously? We might be crazy, somewhat out of touch or even delusional, but we’re not *that* crazy. The hit and miss, feast or famine nature of royalties isn’t enough to justify what we put ourselves through. There are plenty of easier, far more lucrative ways to fill a bank account. No, those of us who truly love writing write because we’re compelled. Our imaginations don’t have an off switch, and the only way to purge that backlog of ideas, lies and mayhem building in our brains – the only way to truly shut those voices up, at least for a little while – is to put it down in words. We weather the erratic income, the insomnia, the idiosyncrasies of the publishing world, scathing reviews from readers with a poor grasp on punctuation and grammar, all because it’s what we love to do. And I won’t even touch upon the other facet of my other insanity, the still-not-floating one, or I might start digging out cab-fare for a one-way ride to nice, restful Bergen Pines.
Writing. It’s madness, I tell you. Pure madness.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.