I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do illegal drugs. I don’t party. I don’t sleep around. I’m faithful and true to those I love. I don’t tell lies unless the truth would needlessly hurt someone, and ‘needlessly’ is the operative word there.
A few years ago, my little brother–who isn’t really my little brother, but that’s a story for another post–he told me that I should get out of the house more often. He said, “Normal people go out and do things.”
I said, “I”d rather be writing.”
There is no truer statement for me than that: I’d rather be writing.
He said, “But that’s not normal.”
I replied, “I never claimed to be normal.”
I went on to tell him, “If I’m happy, love what I do, and am making a living doing it, and being ‘normal’ means giving all that up… I’d rather be crazy and happy than miserable and ‘normal’.”
I’d simply rather be writing.
He said, “But you have to live!”
I have lived enough in my life for three or four lifetimes, and I find comfort now in sitting down and writing about experiences rather than living them. Everything good or bad that has happened in my life is a story waiting to be told. It fuels me and breathes life into characters that otherwise would be one-dimensional, two-dimensional, flat and boring. Instead, I blow my life into them, my experience, my tears, my joys, my sorrows. They become real to me, follow me around, talk to me, taunt me and tease me. When you have to yell at a character to leave you alone because you would like to pee in peace, then you know you’ve really arrived at writing.
I have gone entire days without eating anything, because I didn’t want to break the flow of the writing.
I’d rather write than eat.
I have needed to pee so badly my eyeballs were floating and I thought I’d pee my pants because I couldn’t stop writing in the middle of a scene.
I’d rather write than pee.
I have stayed up quite literally two or three days in a row, with no sleep, because I was on a writing roll.
I’d rather write than sleep.
I’ve even passed on sex in order to…. ah, who am I kidding? Sex first, then back to writing.
But I have learned something about writing. When someone spends their entire day, week, month doing nothing but writing, it empties you. There will come a point where the writing just won’t flow anymore. It’s like writing upside down with a pen: it’ll write for awhile, but then there will be gaps in the letters, then splotches, and then eventually it stops writing. People are the same way too. You can only write so much before you have to recharge.
It’s simple. Real writing, the good kind, the stuff that makes people think, cry, get angry, laugh, or lose themselves in the story–that type of writing takes emotions, from within the heart and soul of the writer, and when you pour that much emotion out all the time, you become empty. Writers have to fill themselves back up.
The only way to fill yourself back up is to live, surround yourself with people you love, things you love and go places you want to go. Experience life, and life will share with you it’s fluid, it’s ink, that will fill you back up and let your pen move again.
I have sat at my computer, in the dark, the only light flickering from my computer screen, with the eerie sound of tap, tap, tap on the keys, echoing in the otherwise silent room. I have sat with tears streaming down my face when one of my characters died. I have laughed gleefully when another was killed, because I was the one who killed him. He got on my nerves, and I could ‘literarily’ kill him, and get away with murder. I have jumped out of my chair with my heart beating so fast because I scared myself while I was writing. I’ve even gone so far as to kick my family out of the house so I could finish a scene without them comforting me, because their comfort meant I could not write from that place of intense pain that I needed to make the scene real.
There is no other job in which you have to feel so much, day in and day out, in order to be good at what you do. Emergency personnel have to turn off that part of them that connects. Counselors are taught to keep a professional distance. Teachers who get too close to their students can’t teach as well. Accountants don’t have to feel people, only numbers.
There is no other job in the world except that of a fiction writer in which someone has to feel so much, so deeply, so regularly in order to do the job and do it well, and for the most part, we are not duly compensated for what we do.
And even given all of that, I’d rather be writing than anything else.
And when the weight of the emotion gets too heavy for me, it’s you, my dear friends, family and readers, who fill up my inkwell again. As long as I have you, I will never be empty.
And thankfully, that means I don’t ever have to be normal either.
Love and stuff,