Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fiction Writers: A Special Kind of Crazy People

I hope that title didn't make you nervous. If you've only just started walking along the road to Being a Writer (or you're close to someone who has) it might sound like some kind of ominous warning. "Beware! Becoming a writer will turn you into a lunatic!" Relax. You don't have to wait for that to happen - that's pretty much how you qualified for the club, bwah ha haaaah...

Of course fiction writers are a bit bonkers; they have to be, to do what they do. "Come and play with me in my completely-made-up world, and meet all these people who don't actually exist, but have become my imaginary friends over the past... oooh, months now! Do you know how long it's taken me to invent all this stuff in my head - at the expense of doing so many other things in the actual, real world?"

Let's face facts here, that's not how grown-ups are encouraged to behave. It may go some way to explain why anyone who chooses to be a writer often gets The Look whenever they reveal this information to others. You know The Look I'm talking about. It implies certain words are popping into The Lookers head, like some kind of secret word-association game; words like 'deluded,' 'too lazy to get a proper job,' 'pretentious'... you get the idea. The only way to not get this Look is to be a very famous writer who's made squillions from selling their books and has legions of devoted fans across the globe - in this power and fame-obsessed world we live in, it seems you can be as deluded/lazy/pretentious as you like as long as you're all of those things and loaded. But not many writers get to sit at that highly exclusive table, so the rest of us spend much of our careers - if we're lucky - standing around the edges of the room catching the crumbs that might occasionally get tossed our way. And through it all, getting The Look.

And yet still we keep on walking down that road, which must mean we want to be there very, very much. And not just for the crumbs that fly off the famous writers' table either; if all we were after was food we could get that elsewhere with much less effort. So, if living in a world where not taking the easiest option to rake in the cash and glory is considered crazy... I guess us writers had better order our straitjackets now. Writing is meant to be hard... but secretly, that's obviously how we like it.

And yeah, sometimes we're... not easy to live with. I'll grant you that one.

At least with non-writer people, if you've spent the past half-hour talking to them about something important only to realise they were tuned out and didn't hear a damn word you were saying, it'll be because they were thinking about their more worrying, real-world problems instead. With us writer-types, it's far more likely that we're stewing over people that don't exist in a land we've completely made-up. Non-writers may, for some bizarre reason, believe that such things are not of equal importance to real-world issues - and unfortunately can't be educated to the contrary (don't try, trust me - it rarely ends well.)

Sometimes we can also be inexplicably sad or grumpy - but not because of something the person actually with us in the real world has said or done. No, it's because of something an imaginary person has just pretend-said or done whilst we were skipping through its made-up world! And whilst we accept it's probably a bit irrational... that doesn't help while we're so damn choked up about it, okay? We'll be fine in a bit, don't worry - just pass us another cookie and let us work through this...

And of course there's that most notorious one; the one where we bark at anyone who comes within five feet of us while we're Working "Do NOT disturb me while I'm writing! How am I supposed to get anything done when PEOPLE KEEP INTERRUPTING ME??!" When it's blatantly obvious that we've spent the last two-and-a-half hours alternating between whimpering at a completely blank screen and forlornly checking our emails. And no, in such a situation as this, don't - just don't - ask us "how's it coming along then?" Not a good plan.

But apart from that, I'd say we're pretty low-maintenance on the whole. And, because we embrace our own craziness, we're generally more tolerant of the vast pick'n'mix of craziness exhibited by everyone else. Heck, we're even interested in it. (Admittedly because we could potentially stick it in our next book, but hey -  we're still feeling the compassion - and we'd change the names and everything...)

Writers need to be crazy, so they can travel to the places everyone else is to afraid to go. Embrace your inner crazy - let it take you to your weird and wonderful places that don't exist. Because you are the tour guide for people who'd never get to those Disneylands any other way.

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