Why is it that writers have a reputation for being scattered? Tortured, isolated, weird… even crazy?
I have been writing professionally and otherwise for years. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m really not this way at all. I’m a pretty organized and tidy person. I’m fairly social, have friends of all types in various places. And well, yeah, I’m weird. But no weirder than any individual in her own unique humanness.
Since starting this group with my co-bloggers, I’ve met writers of all kinds. Some of them have been odd and scattered, live like hermits and spend sleepless night torturing themselves over things that only exist inside their heads. Yeah, we do that sometimes. But guess what? It isn’t just writers baby. That personality type fans across the spectrum of people in all types of careers.
(Right now there are messy accountants. tortured homemakers, weird city planners closing their eyes and saying, “Thank You.”)
So how come writers get the stigma?
I’ll tell you why. Let me illustrate with the events of the past week.
I had plans to finish my longstanding book this summer. I’ve had the story in my head nearly 8 years. It’s something I’ve coined as “bigger than me.” Meaning, I was given the gift a great idea, and need to do the story justice in writing it well. It has driven me to take classes, read books, basically fine-tune my skills as a writer. It’s because of those things that I’ve taken several breaks from actually writing it. I’ve come a long way, and this spring I deemed the summer of 2013 as “The One.” The summer I would finally finish writing my book.
Like most writers, I’m constantly juggling three or four (or more) new ideas in the back of my mind. My Muse is pretty prolific in the offering up of new and beautiful things that inspire me to put pen to paper (or…fingers to keyboard.) It’s all very lovely, and it leads to some pretty major distraction. But I had a plan. I sat down late one night and made a list:
Stories That Have Been in My Head Since the Dawn of Time That I Plan to Write.
There were thirteen. It was a little jarring. I felt a little like a schizophrenic patient whose psychiatrist has just discerned all her various personalities. But no, even this didn’t send me reeling into that dark writer stereotype.
I bought six thousand notebooks. (Okay, well like fifteen) I made some nifty labels that represented each of my ideas, told myself I had a handle on my Multiple Story Disorder. Every time a new idea came into my head, I’d simply write it down in the appropriate notebook. It worked beautifully.
I was on a roll. I pulled on my big girl pants and went back to the outline for my current project. I tightened it, improved it, and forged forward. I filled a couple of plot-holes. I even wrote three new scenes. Nothing was going to stop me now! Yes. This was shaping up to become The Summer.
And then the Muse asked me to dance.
I wrote something for the blog, just off the top of my head. I wrote it so flippantly, it practically didn’t even cross into the conscious part of my mind. But an idea emerged from the words I’d written that was downright life-changing.
Over the course of the next few days I realized what I wrote was not just fiction. It had deeper meaning. It was a story, pieces of my past that I had long tucked away. Parts of me left undiscovered. A story that begged to be explored, learned and eventually retold.
As soon as the idea became clear, I knew it was something that shook my very foundation as a writer, as a person. It was what I needed to write this summer.
Despite my social personality, my organized outlook, all the beautifully detailed plans I had to finish my book, I became all the ugly writer stereotype. I stayed up all night jotting down memories and sorting out scenes in my head from over 20 years ago. I’d torture myself, second guessing whether I should even be writing this story, and how much of it was truth. I turned down friendly offers from friends so that I could spend my spare time writing. My normally tidy house became a neglected wreck, and the creativity I use to run my household and manage to work a little on the side was all spent on channeling this new story. (Luckily, I have been blessed with an extremely understanding husband and fairly adaptable kids. And I’m self-employed, so no chance of getting fired.)
So there it is. I proved the stereotype. As a writer, for an entire week I was scattered, tortured, isolated, weird and crazy. I’m not always that way. Not often, even. But such as it is.
Writers don’t want to be type-cast any more than any human being does. But sometimes, we do it anyway. We’re willing to pigeonhole ourselves into the label, participate in the behaviors that “define us.” Because writers, like other artists (the ones who truly care,) will do whatever is necessary, stereotypes or no, to produce something meaningful.
That blog post brought Writing the Fire more publicity than anything else we’ve ever posted here. The things that came out of my mind as a result of it are some of the most powerful things I have ever written. And yeah, I was (and am) a little bit crazy in the process. But lets face it, sometimes it takes torture to get truth. Isolation to get creativity.
Crazy to get art.
Till Next Time,