But I don't mean to alarm you...
You may be thinking to yourself that the above title reads as a tad bit over-dramatic. Or maybe you even believe it untrue. Hey, I don't really blame you. In fact, I was even like you once. Yep, I thought writers were saner than anyone else in this whole wide world. Real salt of the Earth people. If you’re one of those though, I need you to do me a quick favour. Just double check that any possible writers you share a home with are not in the room with you. Or are at least buried in a book of their own. Alone? Good. I’ll let you thank me after.
1. When you really think about it, authors of fiction are basically professional liars. And lie every day.
Full-scale writers (I mean those that manage to keep themselves fed and riddled with caffeine on their book’s dime) sit behind a desk day after day and lie. And into these lies they pour their entire heart and soul, no holds barred. Hell, sometimes they even get paid for it.
Can you imagine what this must do to a person?
Often enough these lies are so intricate in nature, that they support entire kingdoms and stories from the ground up. Entire worlds are dripped onto the pages, and yet it’s possible not a single word of it bears a hint of truth. These lies are usually clever, amusing and sometimes even beautiful. They are lies easily loved, and perhaps better known as fiction. Fiction is powerful and fiction is addicting, but as your mother once told you; fiction is not the truth. And although you may say fiction is not necessarily a lie, those that spin tales develop the same skill. Day in day out, they build something unreal. Write a conversation that never happened. Orchestrate a series of murders alive only between the covers of their book.
In a rather appealing sense, you may come to realize it’s almost the same thing. Storytellers develop the muscles for lying, and that’s either a side effect or benefit of taking up the pen. Simply depends on how one looks at it.
Next time your face to face with a writer, and they tell you of their weekend, wonder if perhaps that fish they caught may not have been twice as tall as you after all…
But what about me you ask?
No way, I’ve never lied a day in my life. You can totally believe every word I write.
2. We’re delusional. But only too happy to be so.
Maybe it’s a good thing, keeping us in our happy places so that we tend not to bother anyone else. Someone somewhere said something about only the mad being truly free, but I think this may not really apply to writers. More likely the delusion is simply another coping mechanism for being the people we are. We need delusion to face down the chances of publishing success that we have. But regardless of why, stick with a writer long enough and you’ll begin to see the delusion.
Hey, it might even wear off.
We are after all a contagious people. We constantly defy what it means to be writers. Ask any one of us the following question:
“Do you honestly expect to make money on what your doing?”
Than step back and watch, from a safe distance of course. Don’t tell me, they began to laugh with a hearty touch of madness in their voice, and a mania in their eyes that has you rather worried.
Back away now, slowly. And as their laughing fades to a distant chortle of madness, start running.
No one will blame you.
3. We’re murderers.
But it gets worse. Here's why.
Fictionally killing strangers is a deed worrying enough, but we tend to take it a step further. We’re killers of our own people. Characters that we live through more than we live our own lives, that we invest vast amounts of time in beyond what could possibly be considered healthy. And we plan their deaths months, if not years in advance. Deaths that can get, well… pretty damn rough.
You know the sick part of it though? We love them right until the very end. Right until that final sickening twist of the knife, even knowing that it's us ourselves gripping the handle.
I won't judge if you want to double check on your writing roommate.
4. We have many enemies, but none more villainous than terrible reviews.
I shutter at the very words. Let me explain why.
Ever seen someone come close to breaking? Ever wondered what white hot anger looks like in its materialized form? Well let me tell you how to quell those dangerous ponders, and perhaps even your curiosity. Find your friend’s book online and post a bad review, and I mean a review that just drips in maliciousness. Dig deep and find those words that you know they really do not want to hear. Then hide and watch as they read it (again, safe distance is key). Watch the horror bleed from them as it turns very quickly to a rage that has you suddenly regretting listening to me. There are very few things in this world that tempt writers into full fledged madness more than a review that destroys months or years of hard work.
But go ahead, try it. Let me know if your still alive this time next week.
5. We hate the wait.
Writers have only one kind of patience. And that is the patience to sit behind a computer day in and day out until they have something resembling a story. But that’s where that line ends.
The process that follows a books completion is one far more time consuming and drawn out than writing a book will ever be. And for the 95% of writers without editors or the backing of a publishing company, this too falls on their shoulders. And for that, most writers find themselves extremely frustrated with the industry as a whole. The waiting between any one of these steps more often crosses the span of months, not mere weeks or days. The average (non self-published) book only sees the light of day two whole years after it’s finished.
This whole waiting game is not something the mindset of a writer is designed for. If they want something, they want it now, so they write it down. If it’s long, they can chip away at it for days. But what they cannot do is abandon a story for years.
6. Our connection with reality is… touchy… at best.
For those of you living with a writer, I think you can probably figure out what I mean. I’m talking about the look. The look that writers all too often succumb to, probably during mid-conversation. That glaze that overtakes their eyes as their nods of agreement become more and more distant. Then you realize that they’re not listening so you start telling them just how much you dislike them. They nod anyways. Well, let me show you the flip side of that look.
And sometimes a bit dark. That look happens when the writer gives way to a potential story. Or when they’re suddenly struck by an idea unlike any other (because they are all unlike any other at that time). It can be one of a very many varied things. They may be imagining you suddenly drugged and shipped across the world to some forsaken rainforest. They may be picturing if you have what it takes to grow fangs and become a coldblooded killer. Or maybe they’re even imagining you as the victim. Depends what you just said about their book.
A little daunting, isn't it?
7. We’re Delusional.
It is my belief writers know only one kind of true focus.
In all else, it’s unlikely you’ll capture their attention for long. Unless of course your the topic of a new thought-of serial killer. Hopefully not, for your sake. But let's assume, that for some reason, they needed to do something other than write.
I… to be honest, I don't know if it’s possible, but for the sake of the post I’m going to go with it.
Look up distraction in the dictionary. It’s gonna say ‘most prominent in writers,’ I guarantee it. Everything in life is a distraction to them, because everything in life has a story. Yes, everything. Writers, you know what I mean. And they’re either going to want to know what that is, or want to finish it.
They’re like… that annoying kid you had on your elementary school bus. Always talking about a hundred different things at a hundred different times. Except writers frolic from potential story to potential story, without a real care in the world. You know what? That’s perfect. Think of us like children. That may actually make things easier.
8. Our creativity is good until…
Until what writers are writing about bleeds over into the real world. Until they begin projecting their stories onto their own lives. I’ve done it. You’ve done it.
But some go… let’s call it above and beyond.
I think that they live too long in their stories, and at times forget that perhaps they are not among their characters. The relationship between creator and fictional createe is undoubtedly a fine line for some.
Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
I’d even argue that when that line’s crossed, some of the best stories appear, from real lives that are simply… crazy. Look no further than Dickens and his ghost clubs, or Poe’s final days. But I can understand how being on the flip side of the stare might be a little bit unsettling. Who knows what they’re thinking? They’re all crazy, remember?
That author you live with, they don't write murder mysteries perchance?
9. We have deep and dark imaginations.
There’s really only one qualification needed to become a fiction writer, and no it’s not a good grasp of your language. It’s imagination. Everything you read (hopefully) has come from the mind of an author. I think it’s sometimes easy to forget this, because we rarely (if ever) get the chance to meet those authors in person. So to us they are more a distant, dehumanized creator. Maybe even deities to some.
But when the chance comes to meet face to face with any one of them, you’re forced with realizing that the person before you drafted every little detail of that murder that still makes you sweat at night. Or an ending so disturbed there’s not really a word to do it justice. Think about how every twisted thought of every villain in the series came from this man or woman you’re shaking hands with.
And that can be a little off-putting if you tend to read stories of a darker nature.
For a minute, just imagine all of the things that must pass through Stephen King’s mind. If you’ve read even a tenth of all his books, you’ll understand what I’m trying to say. Many of his works have gotten to me, far too many actually, but I’m thinking particularly of Revival right now. That ending?
How does one even… never mind. Probably something best left alone.
This is all to say there are parts of the imagination, often enough deep in the creative abyss of a writers mind, that have every right to scare the living hell out of you. Try looking at your writer friends in the same light again.
You can’t really do it, can you?
10. There are times when we… may or may not (except we definitely do) talk to people that aren’t necessarily there…
Call it what you will. A writer’s curse. A coping mechanism to breathe life into a character so often rejected. Or maybe, just maybe if you dare, call it creative process. Regardless of why it happens though, I think writers have nothing more at heart than a wish to see life, too often denied by publishers, awarded to their creations. Which, when you think about it, could be a really stupid thing to wish.
Who on earth would want to see Patrick Bateman alive?
When it boils down to it though, does it really matter what we call it? Writers talk to people… that are not there. Next time you rack up the courage to approach one in their natural habitat, and can spot them underneath the presumed mountains of paper, watch their lips move as they nod along to something nobody said. You never know when you’re not their only company.
But I mean, you can all hear that guy right?
Fellow writers, perhaps you've just read some of the curses you yourself bear, and for that I grieve right alongside you. As for fellow readers… well, maybe I just saved your life. Either way, I want to hear your thoughts on the matter! So speak away crazies! Or, ya know, stomp and scream…
Otherwise, thanks for reading.