Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday's Words for July 14, 2008

As much as I believe in a classless society, I must confess I have two classes of friends and acquaintances: those who are writers, and those who are not.

If you’re not a writer, you’ll be scratching your head at that distinction. If you are a writer, you understand completely.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I necessarily love one class more than the other. I can’t really say that, because the “are not” class is populated by my family, and I find I am in fact rather fond of most of the members of my family. Over the years, they have been a sporadic source of encouragement, and they’ve even sometimes surprised me by remembering my birthday and getting me neat gifts.

If you’re a fairly new writer, you’re still making some common new-writer mistakes. You’re still looking at your beloved, with stars in your eyes, explaining the clever plot twist one of your characters threw into your story, and wondering why he/she suddenly looks at you as if you’ve finally crumbled your cookies. You also get more than mildly annoyed with your bff because he/she wants to talk about buying shoes or the playoffs when you want to discuss what’s really important in life - your latest work-in-progress.

I liken writing to deep sea exploration. You follow a regimen of preparation before submerging yourself into a world that only a few may enter. You work slowly, hampered by the natural environmental restrictions (time and peace available), struggle to overcome unforeseen hazards (recalcitrant characters). For the most part you are isolated (because you work alone), but sometimes you communicate non-verbally with fellow undersea explorers by printing odd words on your chalk board and holding it up for them to read (e-mails to and from your writing buddies). Then, to properly be able to return smoothly into the above-sea world, you need an appropriate time of decompression (time when you stop writing and begin to shift into real life. But slowly. Very, very slowly.).

For those of you who are new to the life of the author, I offer these pieces of advice. One, don’t try to make your non-writing friends/family understand your world: they won’t. Two, don’t take personally some of the comments you may receive from these loving if ill-informed people. It’s really not their fault they don’t get it.

If you write a steaming hot sex scene, accept that they’re going to look at you as if you penned it from your own personal experiences—and then begin tossing up names of who they think you got that experience with. Whatever you do, don’t try to counter that assumption with the logical “if I write a murder scene, will you believe I’ve penned that from personal experiences, too?” They’ll say, ‘of course not’ and won’t even see the contradiction.

If you decide to kill your major character’s husband/wife, be prepared for your husband/wife to walk around with a long face for a couple of days or maybe even weeks, muttering, “You could have divorced me. You didn’t have to kill me.”

Finally, if you are isolated to the point that the only people you have contact with are non-writers, then these last words of warning for when you do finally hook up with a fellow author are vital.

Just because you finally meet someone who understands your thinking, can finish some of your sentences, will happily stay up all hours of the night discussing goal, motivation and conflict, who speaks about your characters as if they were real people, whose first question when they see or hear from you references your work in progress, and who, without hurt feelings, wishes you well when you explain you’re in the zone and can’t talk right now—just because you finally meet someone like that, doesn’t mean that it’s love.

It’s just another writer.

Feed the flames of your passion...with a novel by Morgan Ashbury

No comments: