This month Write Anything staff are being asked to express their worst fears about writing. You’ll get to read mine later in the month, but already as I read the eloquent words of my colleagues something occurs to me that I often forget. I think it’s quite relevant:
Writers are crazy.
Of course we know artistic types are sensitive. They have a habit of withdrawing from the world, making otherwise bizarre and over-the-top gestures, and drowning themselves. But I sometimes forget that modern writers are artists because most of what I see these days comes from Twitter and Facebook and WordPress.com. Most of it focuses on the business side of writing, or tends to be a positive chin-up attitude towards time management, balancing a career and children and writing a book, How To Create A Useful Social Media Platform, and numbered lists to drown in: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Start. 20 Things To Fuel Your Creativity. 101 Things To Keep You From Insanity.
That last one never works, though. Sometimes I feel 101 Things worth of crazy, and it isn’t because I can’t balance my time, or because I’m not sure if an agent’s last tweet means they’re accepting submissions for canine-based mystery cookbooks or if they were only joking. No, I feel crazy because I am a bit. Sensitive, touched-in-the-head, thoughtful, crazy.
I spend hours pretending to be people I’m not. More than one person, too. I create complex characters and plan their murder and murder them and solve it as someone else. I take great ideas and twist and twist them until they resemble something more literary, more palatable to someone else, an imaginary reader. I spend days of my life considering the imaginary reader more than I consider my own family. I take bad ideas and take them apart fibre by fibre until I know why they suck. I accept that what sucks to me is brilliant to someone else. I talk to myself on a regular basis, walking down the street. I notice people noticing this. I miss my bus stop because I was in a different universe. I immediately recognize that in an alternative universe I didn’t miss the bus and I’m far, far away. Or dead. I fall in love and out again within a few pages. I have nightmares where my characters creep up next to my bed and just look at me. And look and look and look, and won’t speak.
Modern writers are still the same old nuts as we ever were. We just hide it behind walls of clever tweets and Facebook Likes. We’re good at hiding.
And we like to pretend we’re Alice in Wonderland as we write. Really, we’re the Mad Hatter.
So this month as we all admit what scares us, keep in mind our fears should probably be designed by H.R. Giger and directed by Tim Burton. We’re filtering a whole load of crazy through to something that seems both reasonable and useful, just for you.
Writers are good at that, too. You know: lying.