By Nina D’Angelo
I’ve come to the conclusion that writers are almost—if not—impossible to live with. Now you may be scratching your head and wondering what makes me think this. It’s not because I’ve experienced living with a writer. In fact I live with people who seem to make it their mission to read and write as little as possible. Their mission instead seems to spend countless hours in front of the idiot box.
I say this because I am said writer.
I say it because I see the resigned look of family and friends faces when they realize I am in ‘that’ frame of mind—the one where nothing else matters but churning out this chapter that is stuck within my mind.
I say it because I have no illusions as to my being the perfect girlfriend/wife, daughter or best friend. I’m not. If anything I am far from it.
But here’s the gist. Most people who know me knew that when I took this gig that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride and luckily have accepted it.
Writers are anti-social
Ok. This is partially true. It’s not our fault. No, seriously it’s not. Usually we are bugged by non-writer types who have this grand illusion that we need to get out more. This usually results in a very uncomfortable and unusual silent dinner in which we writers conspicuously look at our watches.
This probably sounds like a tick in the anti-social box but here’s the simple truth. We’re writers. That’s what we do. We were not born to socialize. We were born to write. Yes, we love you and we enjoy spending time with you but guess what? We like spending time with our writing more. It consumes us.
While you’re sitting across wondering why the hell you even took it upon yourselves to get us out of our jim jams and into fresh air, we’re thinking about sub-plots and the quickest way to poison someone without leaving a trace.
Now this doesn’t mean we don’t want to spend time with you. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you. We just like to be left well alone when we write. We don’t need people constantly walking in and out of our study/writing area and asking inane questions.
Once the novel is finished, we will take a deep breath, surface and spent quality time with everyone we love before we de-surface again for the next saga. It’s just who we are. You knew this when you involuntarily took this gig on.
Writers are unobservant.
This is a favorite quote of my family and friends. I’ve been told by that a bomb could go off in the middle of my living room and I wouldn’t notice. Now that’s not entirely true.
Writers are actually quite observant. It’s what helps makes us brilliant writers. We just notice things that are important to us. This includes the shape and contrast of blood spatter on a wall, the heavy treads of a killer’s footsteps as he stalks his prey or the sounds of a death rattle as his victim takes his last breath.
It does not include cans of empty sodas on the bench or the pile of clothes desperately in need of ironing.
Yes, there are occasions where dinner will not be cooked. There will even be times where you will come home to find us wearing the same clothes we were wearing when you left for work. And yes, we do forget to eat and will drink coffee that has been sitting there for two hours. These are all the stuff you may deem important but when we have a deadline to be met, they are things we will ignore.
Writers will use their friends and family as their muses.
Be warned. This is true. Whether we mean to do it intentionally we will twist and contort characteristics of everyone we know and turn them into characters for our latest creation. We sometimes will blatantly steal your anecdotes and turn them into our characters experiences. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Without even realizing it we throw so much of ourselves also into our work. It’s why we are so scared of being rejected. It’s why our novels become our babies.
And God forbid you should cross us or even worse—ask to be used in our twisted little creations. My best friend agreed readily when I asked if I could use her profession, an alternate of her name and put her in the prologue of my new novel ‘Nowhere To Run’. Luckily she has a sense of fun and didn’t mind all that much that the first scene saw her raped, tortured and murdered.
We will question you however if you ask if you can be the serial killer. Unless we decide to make you one, please don’t ask. It’s just plain creepy. (A former friend of mine who shall remain nameless asked if he could be the serial killer in my novel—the said killer who rapes, tortures and slits the throat of his victims-needless to say I distanced myself from him shortly afterwards).
Give Writers their space and let us write.
Here’s the news. If we say we want to be left alone to write, please do it. Do not knock on the door or even pop in just to see how we’re doing. If we wanted you to know what we were doing, we would come out and tell you.
If we want liquids, foods or feel the need to stretch our legs we are quite capable of doing so ourselves. Although we do readily forget to eat, drink and take a break that usually means we are on a roll and god help you if you dare to interrupt us.
I love my family to pieces but I like to think that they have learnt that when I have turned the music up really loudly and I am locked in a room for hours on end, I am writing. I do not want you coming in, sitting on the edge of my desk and asking me to describe what my novel is about. Especially, when you have the attention span of a Knat and will start discussing something randomly like how I should clean my desk because it will make it easier to find things. If you didn’t really want to be told how said writer has dumped the headless body in an abandoned field then don’t ask.
I’m lucky enough to have someone in my life who does understand the term space. In fact he encourages it actively (Perhaps this I should be worried about?). He will either hear the swift change in my tone when I am suddenly distracted while talking to him or that glazed expression that indicates I’ve gone off to my own little dark world where serial killers are running amok and victims are piling up by the dozen.
Luckily he knows me well enough to just smile indulgently and say the two words I want to hear ‘Go Write’. Nor does he find it disturbing to start a phone call to me with ‘So, did we kill anyone today?’
Writers are not shiny, happy people
Accept it. Unless we’re someone who writes those God Awful self-help books or taking a heavy dosage of valium, don’t expect us to be shiny, happy people.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t writers who are permanently on a high (my guess is they regularly imbibe in speed or other medicinal products but that’s just me), just that writers are notorious for being self-absorbed, dark and twisted personalities. Still don’t believe me? Does Ernest Hemingway ring a bell? No? How about Sylvia Plath? I can see from that stunned expression on your face you’re wishing you hadn’t crawled out from under your rock. O.K, I get it. How about Anne Rice or Leo Tolstoy?
Hell, if you’re still scratching your head there’s the likelihood you’re one of those people writers hate. You don’t get the references. You will never get them and you think that sunlight is actually good for you. You’re the very shiny, happy people we writers can’t stand.
Writers (In fact all artists alike) are brilliant at what they do because they can tap into that dark source from within and use it to their advantage. It’s why we have the ability to churn out stories that make your hair stand on end, or make you bawl your eyes out on a moving train in front of hundreds of other travelers. We revel in it. It’s what makes us who we are. Don’t try and change us into shiny, happy twits. We will just retreat further.
Some of the best stuff I have written has come from that dark place. It’s where you pour everything you have into a chapter and by the end of it you either hate it or are reaching for a tissue because you’re crying so hard it hurts.
Time means little to us
I have to confess in most cases this does not relate to me. I live by my watch. I don’t like being late to anything. However, if I am writing it’s a whole different ball game. I think it must be a general rule that writers do not notice time passing us by. The only time we will notice it is when we have a pressing deadline—then we will hear every tick, every second, every minute, every hour at a high decibel rate.
Again, it’s not because we’re unobserving but because we simply lose track of it. The thing about writing is that it sucks you so deeply within it, that you stop hearing, seeing and feeling anything around you. So, yes WW3 could occur in a writer’s living room but unless it distracts them, they’re not going to notice it. You could dress up like a go-go dancer and do the can-can around their desk and the only response you’re likely to get is a passing glance before they go back to writing again.
I’m guilty of this. When I’m writing I tend to plug in my headphones, turn up the music and just tune out to everything but my writing and the music. I’m also guilty of starting writing at 9pm only to glance at the clock at 3am and realize it is way past bedtime. More often than not I have gone to work with less than four hours sleep. It’s a habit I’ve become accustomed to.
Patience is a Virtue
See the words above. Try them. Yes, we know as writers that we can be unpredictable, trying and give a whole new meaning to the word patience. Patience is a word friends and family of writers need to learn quickly. Trust me on that one, because writers will test to see how far they can press it time and time again.
Mainly because it’s a word we have to be familiar with at the same time unfamiliar with. We’re impatient in most things we do except our writing. Usually we are rushing to get back to our work. We’re well aware that we try the patience of everyone around us especially when we are in a black mood and snapping at our loved ones. It’s not because we mean to but we are frustrated or just want to throw ourselves into our work and something is holding us back.
Be prepared for the tantrums and the black moods. Be prepared for the frustration that will come with writer’s block. Be prepared to be in it for the long haul. You’ll see both the upsides and downsides of what a writer can go through. If you’re there for the start, you’re going to need to be prepared for the rejection letters, the desolation that will follow and the tears that will fall. If you’re even luckier to be there for the end, you may see the pride and joy that comes from being recognized as a published author.
The main thing is to remember—be prepared because it doesn’t happen overnight and it will be a bumpy ride.
This is one you’re just going to have to deal with. Suck it up and get used to it. We’re eccentric not crazy. Accept that when having a conversation with us we will switch topics so rapidly you start to wonder if you’re talking to one or many personalities. Our brains are not necessarily wired the same as yours.
This means that we will stop midway through conversations about your latest boyfriend/girlfriend and switch to commentary about our novel. This doesn’t mean we want you to reply, just that we have switched off from your latest fling and retreated to our own world.
Also don’t be surprised if mid-sentence we will spew out an idea for the next novel or something that needs to go in our next chapter. Be even less surprised when we reach for that trusty notepad we carry anywhere.
And lastly just remember the most important one of all
Love us for us.
‘Nuff said really.
Nina D’Angelo is a freelance writer and photographer. After graduating from Deakin University in 2005, with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Public Relations, Nina worked briefly in PR. Not satisfied with her profession, she returned to freelance writing. Since graduating she has written her own TV series, worked for music magazines—Faster Louder and Buzz Magazine—and had her photography published in Aquapulse. She currently works as a freelance writer and is working on her first full-length novel ‘Nowhere to Run’. Nina is hoping to have ‘Nowhere to Run’ finished by December 2012.