Writers Are Weird
Writers are the weirdest people you’ll ever meet. Well, perhaps not the weirdest, but nowhere near what society would call ‘normal.’ Their minds are seldom in the here and now; they might look calm and collected on the outside, but behind their eyes, their imaginations are always running wild. Writers come in all varieties of personality types, but one thing you’ll find unites them all is this: they never stopped playing make-believe. That childlike sense of wonder about the world around us stood the test of time against the odds of our society’s tendency to encourage people to ‘outgrow’ their imagination. It’s why I like meeting other writers. Regardless of our differences, be they race, religion, income, or any other arbitrary categorization we use to define human beings, our souls are going to connect on a similar wavelength.
In high school, my Expository Writing teacher said to the class, quoting E. L. Doctorow, “Writing is a socially-acceptable form of schizophrenia.” I think every writer at some point in his or her life has questioned their own sanity. I know I have. People make jokes about hearing voices in their head not being normal, and I would think to myself, “I hear voices in my head all the time.” Don’t be alarmed, however. These voices come in the forms of personalities and characters who might one day find themselves on the pages of a future novel. While not true of all writers, you’ll find that most of us tend to talk aloud to ourselves, and not just when we’re working.
Writers Are Artists
In twenty-first century America, we find, heartbreakingly so, that fewer and fewer people read. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I’m just not much of a reader,” I wouldn’t need to write to make money anymore. Living in a digital age, with a buffet of streaming media at the tips of our fingers, more people prefer television and film. So why produce art fewer people will appreciate? Well, have you ever heard someone say, “The book was even better than the movie,”? There’s a reason for that: visual entertainment, no matter how crammed-packed with special effects, will never—I repeat, never—compete with the human imagination. You see, especially for those of us who write fiction, it is the part of the human mind to which we appeal.
When someone says they are an ‘artist,’ we typically think painter, sculptor, dancer, or musician. When someone says they are a ‘writer,’ we have a tendency to put them in a separate compartment. But that’s what we are: artists. Our canvas is a blank piece of paper or computer screen, our paintbrush, a pen or keyboard, and our finished product, an experience. It may come in the form of a story, a poem, an essay, or a blog. We use words to paint a picture in the minds of our readers in hopes to take them to another place, perhaps another time, and see through the eyes and ears of someone who doesn’t even exist. And why? Because we want other people to read our work and enjoy it? Sure. That’s a part of it. But real writers do it because they love it more than anything else in the world. Just ask one.
Writers Understand People
Writers are a scary judge of character and it’s rare to find one gullible or easily-duped. We spend so much time trying to understand people in order to make our characters as believable and relatable as possible. We don’t force our characters say or do anything, we invent them, and let them loose. We constantly ask ourselves, “What would he say?” or “What would she do?” and develop a honed skill at reading people as a result. After studying human behavior for so long, trying to not only understand it, but essentially replicate it, writers can usually deduce the motivation behind people’s words or actions. Long-story-short, I wouldn’t recommend trying to bullshit a writer, though you’re welcome to try. You’ll just give them the opportunity to call out what you’re doing and why.
On the flipside of this, oftentimes you’ll find writers make great friends. We pay attention to what people respond to, positive and negative, and for those we love: we aim to please. For this reason, you’ll notice writers sometimes wear different hats depending on who they are around. It’s not faking or insincere, but another representation of who they are—one they think you’ll respond to best. What can I say? We’re a complicated lot, rich with layers and complexities, and sometimes downright ridiculous. But as Marilyn Monroe once said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
Writers Work Hard
If you’re familiar with ‘Family Guy,’ you have probably seen the bit where Stewie heckles Brian about writing a novel. If don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve included the entire quote here for your pleasure.
“How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you’re working on there? Your big novel you’ve been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protaganist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? (voice getting higher pitched) Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? (voice returns to normal) No, no, you deserve some time off.”
People love to say this to me for some reason. I suppose they think it’s funny and I suppose it is; I laughed when I saw it—the first time. There’s a terrible misconception concerning writers: that they sit around doing nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Writers work hard. Really hard. Don’t believe me? Sit down at your computer, shell out 80,000 words that make sense, comb through it to make sure it’s as free from grammatical and spelling errors as possible, and then try to talk someone else into paying you for the opportunity to read it. After you’re done, let me know how long it took you to do it.
The truth is we pour our heart and soul into our work. We are just as passionate as any other artist about our work. Blood, sweat, tears, countless hours, and cups of coffee go into transforming ideas for others to understand and enjoy. Another misconception is that all writers are ‘starving artists.’ Some of us are pretty darn good at what we do and make a decent living doing so. Next time you hear someone say they are a writer, remember that just like any person with any profession, they take great pains to produce quality work, and are proud of the accomplishments like anyone would be.
To My Fellow Ink-Slingers
If you’ve stayed with me until this point, hopefully you’re reading this saying, “Yes! Yes!” I know what it’s like being a writer. Every challenge, every insecurity, every snarky comment from every hater who thinks our craft obsolete or irrelevant, I’ve faced it all, and I’m sure you have too. Being a writer isn’t easy. The work is hard, the pay sucks, and the label comes with all kinds of disheartening stigma. But chances are though, you’re like me and you don’t do it for the money or the approval of others; you do it because you love it and you can’t imagine doing anything else. To that I say, “More power to you!”
Our craft is not obsolete and it is not irrelevant. While fewer people read nowadays, the global population is larger today than ever before, and a great many of them still read. Your efforts are not in vain and under no circumstances should you let discouragement of any kind dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. You will find success if you make the decision to never quit and possess the three necessary ingredients: talent, skill, and determination.
For those of you who took the time to read, thank you. Readers are a writer’s best friend. I appreciate you more than I could adequately articulate with words alone. I hope this has given you some insight into what writers, as people, are really like. For my fellow writers, remember this if nothing else: you can’t lose if you refuse to quit. Oh! And one more thing: don’t ever stop listening to the voices in your head.