Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Strange, Strange World of Writers

Writers are a strange breed.  I remember when I realized writing was indeed my thing.  Oddly enough, it wasn't the act of writing that gave me a clue, which is funny to me, because there I was writing on a daily basis for years, trying to figure out what my passion is in life, my calling, and I was actually doing it!  Hello!  I was like Ziggy over there looking for butterflies.

No, it didn't finally kick in until I read an article on the quirky ways of writers.  The light bulb turned on over my head as I saw myself in all of what I read, able to identify with the writers portrayed there in all their strangeness.  I never saw it as a calling, or something to actually lean toward in life, having everything in my life orbit around it, which, pretty much, was already happening.  I simply looked at it as something I loved to do, with it working initially as a kind of reflecting pool, a tool used for therapy that helped me find my breath and my way back to center.  ( Come to find out, that's what any passion for something does ).  And it really wasn't so much about writing as it was about me trying to put to expression what I saw and felt and thought.  Like the inside was wanting out, and writing was the path used for it.

From there to here, putting what I write out there for other eyeballs to see, has been a long, neurotic, drawn out process that really could have been made so much simpler, but it is what it was, and I'll leave it at that.

First of all writers are keen observers.  This can be a good thing and annoying at the same time.  I think I was born observing.  One of my first memories is of when I was three years old, and I had my nose in the grass, because I discovered another world there under the surface.  As a teenager, I remember going to the mall or airport for the express purpose of sitting on a bench or chair to observe the people around me.  Hell, anywhere I was I found myself observing everything.

That said, writers can sit for hours doing a very good imitation of staring.  While it may appear to others we are staring out in space, or at a wall, or a computer screen, or an empty page, we are actually listening, interpreting, writing in our head, watching scenes in our head, etc.  We are very, very busy, and are not ignoring our family, the cat, the dog, the dishes, or anything...on purpose.  We are busy....please hold.  I've received countless complaints for not doing anything, or paying attention, during one of my sit and stare modes, and no matter how many times I tell the other person, "Shhh!  I am just can't see it," they don't really get it at all.  How can they?  They aren't writers.

Once the words start flowing out of us...well, there we are in the zone, writing, writing, writing.  Our loved ones, our friends, the cat, the dog, walk by, vie for our attention, but we aren't ignoring them...we are writing.  It...must...come...out.  And starts out looking something like the picture below.

But once we get going, it's like we're on crack.  ( No, I've never used that stuff, but have witnessed folks on it, and it ain't pretty ).  We may, at times, stand up and pace around, go outside, come right back in, write a little more, stand up...oh, but wait, an idea strikes...write while standing, reread what we just wrote, obsess over it a bit, then keep it or delete it, move get the picture.  While in writing mode we are the least observant people in the entire world.  Anyone could walk in and rob the place right out from under us and we wouldn't notice.  Meanwhile, the cat and dog, our people, have given up trying to communicate with us, and figure we'll get around to them at some point.  Which we do...may take a few days, but we will get back to them....

When we do come out of our writer's crack attack, we find we've gotten a little bit behind on things.  So we make lists, and post them all around to help us remember we do have a life to live, and showers to take, and connection with it and others is important.  We do good with that for awhile until the next attack comes on, ( could be hours or days, we really just don't know ), and then there we are... staring again.  Meanwhile, off in the distance can be heard the collective moan of our family and friends. 

Writers tend to have index cards, little notebooks, and pens at the ready in every area they find themselves, including the car.  But anything will do in a pinch...napkins, envelopes, receipts, the palms of our hands.  Locating those bits of ideas is another story all together.

And don't get me started on writer's block.  I think the people and pets in our lives would rather put up with our semi-absence while we're in our strange fits of writing, than experience our withdrawal symptoms.  If they thought we were neurotic before, now it's taken on a whole different color.  Without our passion of choice we are totally lost, and freaked out.  We may even start twitching...

All this is before the thought of publishing arrives.  When just the mere thought hits we become afflicted with a deep insecurity we didn't even know existed within us, doubting all that we felt confident we knew, because now when we take a look at what we just wrote, we are reading it through our supposed readers eyes, who have all suddenly put on hideous masks to scare us.  Once we publish, our bewildered family and friends, and animals look at us cowering in the corner, trembling in fear, waiting for the first crack of the whip that will put it all to an end.  We've completely forgotten the reason we write has nothing to do with publishing, but simply because we must.

Of course I'm exaggerating, ( sorta ), but that's just another thing about writers that can be good and annoying at the same time.  No one seems to have an issue with painters who, in truth, are painting the illusion of depth on a flat surface.  We just do it with words to get an idea across.  Drawing words with contrast on a flat surface.

While searching for images to go along with what I'm writing today, I came across the one below.  In light of a recent conversation I had with an online friend, which inspired this post, this image struck me...because while all this I just wrote may seem dramatic, this is in fact what I am doing...sitting quietly, writing...hoping my words make a difference.  I think that's what its all about for writers who seek publication.  It's not really about being recognized, its about connecting.  While it may appear we are self involved and absorbed, ( and neurotic :), we know that deep within us is a desire to make a difference somehow, and something inside us is saying we can.  I don't think we'd do it otherwise.  Yes, we love writing, but speaking just for myself, I wouldn't publish if I didn't feel there was something from the inside of me pushing me to do so.  There are so many writers I know of who speak about this very thing.  We'd rather not go there, put ourselves, and our words out there.  We have to make ourselves do it.  I think that says something...I think it says something important.



j said...

Love this post. It is... familiar.

C. Fassett said...

Lol, I thought it would be...;-)