Being a Writer is Like
The following originally appeared on Chapter Break on 4/15/15. I haven’t reposted a guest post in a while but I really like this one and it got a couple of nice responses so I thought I’d put it here.
Being a Writer is Like…
Being held captive in an insane asylum.
Think about it, there’s you the writer and supposedly ‘the sane one’ then one day you’re completely taken over by these voices in your head. They’re not just voices, you can see them, you can feel their breath on your face, you feel the heat radiate from their disembodied bodies, you smell their scent either their perfume, cologne, or just the raw musk of them fills your nose. Some of them are crazy, there’s no doubt about it, some of them are absolutely off their rockers. Others are sane but devious. Others still are sweet and innocent…usually they’re victims in my stories.
There they are this entire motley crew all clamoring for your attention from inside their respective rooms (cells) deep in your sub-conscious. At first you, as the dutiful warden and caretaker of the hallowed place, do your best to give it to them one at a time as you lay the foundation of your story or as in this instance, as you repair the foundation of the asylum. That is until they run you ragged as you race room to room and you find you’re up at two in the morning, fingers flying across the keyboard, showing no signs of slowing down as you’re lost deep in whatever tale they’re telling and you have to be at work at 8am.
Individual attention won’t do, it’s too slow, it takes too long and, let’s face it, Life doesn’t wait for us to finish our stories or even the next paragraph before it just goes along on its merry way without you. So you make the mistake of holding a Group Session. You open the doors, march them down to the Therapy Room, and think you’re going to conduct a healthy chat. When everyone is gathered in one place, each out of their rooms and off their chains, they descend on you like a horde of locusts. They overtake every waking and sleeping moment (I’ve had the best dreams under these circumstances). They won’t shut up, they won’t go away, and they won’t give you five minutes of peace while you’re trying to do the grocery shopping! They bicker amongst themselves and with you until their voices culminate in a great crescendo that has you at the keyboard six hours a day, ignoring all but the most basic functions of; sleep, eat, work, and use the bathroom. The latter is held off as long as possible. I can’t even begin to tell you how many bills slipped my mind while in this mode or how many times grocery shopping wasn’t done at all because I couldn’t take the time away from the story to do it or how many times we ate take-out because I couldn’t be bothered to cook.
You are locked in this darkened room with these crazy people until you’re able to type what I consider the two most dreaded words in writing; The End. The door doesn’t magickally open at that point although it does unlock it seems to stick as you go through the editing process and the voices slowly go back to speaking one at a time.
Yes, it won’t be until a while after you get your book to market—in the case of an Indie writer like me—that you’ll be able to herd the disembodied entities back to their respective rooms and lock them away again. Then you can go grocery shopping and pay the electric bill before it gets turned off. You can take a breath and try to get back to the Real World for a while knowing you’ve earned a little vacation but it won’t be long before they’re clanging their metal cups against the bars as they call out your name. It’s at that point you discover just how massive this rundown asylum truly is, how many residents there are in those rooms and wandering down twisting corridors full of dust and peeling paint. It’s endless, boundless, each resident has their own story to tell, each rotted door opens onto something new and you never know what it’s going to be until you have the courage to open it up and walk through to the other side.