Tag Archive | neurotic writer

Soylent Green is People

No one ever believes me when I say that I’m an introvert at heart.  If you’ve ever met me at a book event, you know what I mean. I have no trouble with public speaking, and I enjoy  talking with readers and writers and librarians. I have a reputation as bubbly and outgoing.

Hermit Crab

This is a sham. I am really a hermit crab with good coping skills.

It isn’t that I don’t like people, especially readers.  But you know how you don’t want to go to a friend’s birthday party or something, even though you actually really like your friend, but it’s going to be noisy and there’s going to be dancing or whatever, and your mom is all like, “Just go. You know you’ll have a good time once you get there,” and you whine and protest but she makes you go and then you actually do have a really good time?

That’s pretty much me all the time.

And it’s kind of a vicious cycle, because once I get into my cave, it’s safe and cozy and I have my dog and MY SPOT on the couch and lots of coffee and cookies. You would think that I would have a lot more writing to show for this, but there’s also satellite TV and Netflix for marathoning full seasons of Lost Girl and Breaking Bad. Then I realize that I’ve written five pages in the last five days and I live with my mother and I haven’t had a date or been out with my friends in months, which is my own fault because I love my spot and my dog and my Netflix and OH MY GOD THIS IS HOW CRAZY CAT LADIES GET STARTED.

Not that that is really what happens. I’m just saying it could.

This is why writers need Real Life friends. Because after a certain point it takes dynamite to get me out of my cave. When I don’t come to critique group for two weeks in a row, my friends threaten to send a Navy SEAL extraction team. It has nothing to do with the fact that my work needs critique. (Which, of course it doesn’t, because it falls from my fingers like perfect jewels of prose.)  It’s because otherwise I will turn into the crazy dog lady.

So, this morning I’m sitting at a table in Starbucks with four of my writer friends. We’re actually being really productive this morning, all of us with our earphones in, typing away at our laptops, which probably looks a little weird to people. (Or maybe not. I’m sure Starbucks has seen weirder stuff.)  Why meet in person to sit and look at your own computer screen and not talk to each other?

For one thing, it forces us to rejoin civilization. You know. Take a shower and wear pants without elastic waistbands.  For another, I look up and see my friends hammering on the keys, and peer pressure puts its boot to my butt.

But most of all it’s good to get out of the cave.  We’re social creatures, human beings. Sometimes being around people, whether you actually talk to them or not, is like taking your vitamins.

I hear that’s good for you.

Soylentgreen

 

 

Eat (All) the Ice Cream

When I was at YAKfest the other weekend, one of the student’s asked, “Do you ever take on characteristics of your characters while you’re writing?” Specifically, I think she said, if your character’s a crabby person, do you become more crabby, and so on.grumpy-cat-entertained

Let’s ignore, for the moment, the larger problem that if your character is so unpleasant that your friends don’t want to be around you while you’re writing him/her, is anyone going to want to be around that character for a whole book.

The deal is (as I expounded in my Wise Mentor way) that it might not be the character making you crabby. It’s easy to fall into the stereotype of the reclusive, absentminded, cranky and iconoclastic writer.

Why?

  1. Aren’t writers and artists supposed to be eccentric?
  2. A lot of people who like to write do so because they like their own company best, anyway.
  3. It’s annoying to have to come out of your fantasy world and interact with real people, people who often want you to Do Things, when you’d rather be slaying Orcs with your Dashing Hero in your head.
  4. Your friends and family don’t always understand that just because you’re up and walking around the kitchen physically doesn’t mean you’re not still in Orc-land trying to solve The Riddle of Eternal Riddleness in your head. So when they talk to you and you don’t answer, or worse, you answer in Orcish, or worse, you snap at them for distracting you when you almost had the answer… it can lead to hurt feelings.
  5. If your writing style is to fully immerse yourself in your book, where you basically go in your cave for three weeks and don’t emerge until the thing is done, then the people on the outside–the ones you turn down for dates or parties, or ignore when they want to go out for ice cream–might not be there when you come out of your writing hibernation.

I speak from experience. I have been guilty off all these things. (Except number two, which is more of being most comfortable with myself more than liking myself best.)

My advice to the student with the question was this:

First, if your character is a douche, that’s not an excuse for you to be one, too.

Second, take time to eat the ice cream so that you will still have friends when you’re done with your book. Writing is a lonely endeavor, but don’t make your life more lonely by forgetting there are real people in the world as well as imaginary ones.

Wise Mentors are sometimes good at giving advice that we need to give ourselves most of all.