I sometimes wonder what it’s like dealing with me. I mean, being a writer and immersing yourself in imaginary and weird worlds (and sometimes… universes, omniverses, and fractalverses) is by no stretch a “normal” thing to do. My kid, sure, he’s two, and he probably thinks what I do is normal. But how do I explain to him what’s going on in my head?
So, in a nod to my husband for putting up with me, here’s some things you might notice if you live with a writer:
Incoherent mumbling. This is usually reserved for writers in the process of thinking a novel out. You may hear quips of dialogues, sudden phrases like “That’s it!” or “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before!” followed by strangled cries and notes of frustration. You see, the problem is that for most of us, writing invades our normal lives. You may see a half-full jar of dill pickles ripe for the eating, but the writer will likely see a swamp of green algae where their heroine is currently stuck, and figures out that–yes, the log floating by is exactly what they needed to move this scene forward.
Obsession. This runs the gamut, but most writers have experienced this. Something, from somewhere, whether it be Incan mythology, medieval dance crazes, Mongolian ritual cooking, or the flight patterns of certain Asiatic birds, will strike the fancy of the writer. It may have nothing to do with our WIP (that’s… Work In Progress for the uninitiated) but that doesn’t matter. Because it just might be important. And when and if it becomes important, we will know every last minuscule detail. Even if might only be relegated to a footnote.
Semi-coherent lectures. I often grace my husband late at night with these little beauties, when I’ve been writing a chunk and can’t seem to dislodge my characters from my consciousness. In spite of the fact he’s not yet read what I’m writing, or has been involved, I still find it necessary to lecture for a good hour or so on the nature of steam engines, or Malory’s take on Sir Gawain, or what I plan on doing with the myth when I get my hands on it, and how perfectly it melded with the main intent of my protagonist!
Roller coaster moods. No women jokes here–this is something I’ve seen in many male writers as well. We go through peaks and valleys during our creative processes. One day I’m convinced I’m writing the next best-seller, and am prepared to pay off my student loans, the next I’m ready to toss it all in and go back to retail. This is especially the case if your writer-in-residence is not published. We live in limbo, toil in the knowledge that there’s a chance, somewhere out there, that we’ll find success. And we want to succeed, but we can’t stop writing, even if it seems bleak.
Disorganized/Organized behavior. Writers fall into two main categories, most often. Those who organize, and those who don’t. If you’re like me, you flourish in chaos. Papers aren’t proper if they aren’t in piles. Journals are never completed; novels are spread between Moleskines, sketch-pads, and at least two different word processing programs. If you move something on me, I’ll never find it again, but I’ll swear I knew exactly where it was. Similarly with the organized sorts, everything must be in its place. So much so that sometimes you spend a good deal of your time preparing to write, and making your notes, your mood, your total writerly experience is up to par. And if you move something on an organized writer, be prepared for blood–and war.
Sudden and strange appearances, disappearances. I admit I have no idea how my brain makes connections. But sometimes I’ll be in the middle of the mundane, and must–or else–write what I’ve just thought. This might be in the middle of dinner, a date, a movie, a shower. The muses have one hell of a sense of humor. Alternatively, you may swear your writer friend or spouse or partner was “locked in for the day” when, after fifteen minutes, they reappear again wanting to watch the whole Battlestar Galactica series out of nowhere. That said: the muses have one hell of a sense of humor.
And finally, a penchant for embarrassing conversations with friends and families. Let’s face it, the whole “novel writer” concept is a little difficult to explain to the world at large, especially to those not of the literary slant. This is why when, in the company of someone who seems excited about our WIPs, we have to gush. Sometimes it’s not appropriate. Sometimes we mistake fear and terror for interest. But three hours later, you’ll have a good idea how loyal your friend or family member is…