Another opinion I’ve found in the world when listening to people talk about writers is that a lot of us are on the brink or just plain eccentric. It’s not even strictly outside the writing community – writers buy into this one too from time to time. And really, who can blame them? There’s been enough history of big names going out of whack and enough experiences in personal chaos to make anyone start to believe it. As many a wannabe writer has said to me (including when I talk to myself), “I start to understand why so many writers drink”.
Still, this issue has two polar opposite positions with equal levels of BS to them.
An Outsider’s BS Perspective
So, we all know the story. A writer is working on The Great American Novel everyone likes to believe they’d someday create. But along the way he has a severe case of writer’s block.
And it doesn’t help when you’ve got a family to deal with. Hell, if you have kids then you’re never really allowed a moment’s rest. It takes so much time and energy, even when you get a chance to think you can’t think anymore because you’re so exhausted that it’s starting to drive you a little crazy. Sometimes you sit up in the dead of the night, pondering ways to just remove the distractions.
But no, no, it’s the writing that’s making him suffer, not the family. It haunts him, he’s been stuck on that one damn page for days on end and he just can’t get past it. All he does all day is type out random gibberish to fill in that blank space that keeps taunting him, laughing at him. If he could, he’d stab it in the face, if it had a face. Damn it, why doesn’t it have a face?!
It’s time to go on vacation! Everyone feels better on vacation! Maybe then you’ll stop standing over the kid while he sleeps holding that pillow so tightly. Though sometimes that does feel like a good idea…yeah, maybe it’s time to go thro- Wait, wait, haha, no, I see what you did there. Vacation it is!
And that’s how it is. Writers are inherently unstable people who are on the brink of some sort of emotional episode. After all, they’re usually drug addicts, alcoholics or ragingly eccentric lunatics living on the fringe of society. Stephen King had a drug problem, Jules Verne wrote whole stories drinking wine laced with cocaine and there’s a long standing rumor that Mary Shelley was high on opium when she started thinking about raising the dead. So, of course, they’re all drugged out maniacs, shiftless losers, or deeply broken people, right? Sooner or later they’ll hurt themselves or someone around them and they’re going to end up either dead or chase away everyone around them with their crazy behavior.
It is true that there’s a strange level of suicide among some of the more well known writers and some more interesting stories of outlandish deaths. No one’s quite sure what killed Edgar Allan Poe, having been found completely delirious and wearing clothes that didn’t belong to him before dying in a hospital. But to make his death even more epic you have to realize that the theories right now list the likes of “rabies” and “kidnapped to vote”. The man died as he lived, bat-shit crazy.
But then the perception is that they’re whiners who don’t want to work hard and are just full of themselves and what they do. But really, is that fair to assume? This perception stems from that idea that it’s so easy anyone can do it. But as I covered before, that’s not true.
So, are they validated? Eh, no more than anyone else. Though telling them that requires you ween them off their own flavor of BS.
A Writer’s BS Perspective
Writing is the hardest thing EVER. If anyone ever doesn’t like it then you would just DIE. Because they’re not rejecting your writing or your style, they’re rejecting YOU. After all, when you write you’re having to use the things from your personality, your opinions and your life to construct a story that other people will read. It’s not like you just threw random words on the paper, no, you put your soul into it. And if they read the things you wrote, the things you put so much of yourself into, then decide they don’t like it…it only makes sense they don’t like you, right?
The typical neurotic writer is sometimes like that. They fall into this death spiral of self loathing, insecurity and fear of rejection. When asked what people feared most in a poll a few years ago, death was #2 on the list of things people most fear. What was #1? Public speaking. We, the human race, are not wired for communication to a large number of people at once. And yet, writers try to speak to millions of people and the rest of eternity.
So we already know from the moment we begin that we just might be severely creative masochists. It gets rougher too because you look out there and not only are you struggling to write something that people will like but you’re being told you’re in a field where everyone fails. Also, getting into the industry is nearly impossible. When you do get published you wont make any money and everyone in the world thinks they can do your job better than you can and that you’re just milking it for attention.
Writers are a bit neurotic and there’s plenty of reason for them to feel the way they do. But self-destructing is far from the way to go. Yeah, some of the greats were either junkies, drunks or suicidal, but that doesn’t mean you should be. Most of those people became greats because they channeled the darkness into their work, fighting it off or embracing it and turning it into something awesome. Sure, it doesn’t always work, but when the job does pay off, we get a great reward for our efforts.
On the other hand, when it doesn’t pay off, you end up with a few options. Some of them happen to quit, walk away and never look back. Some failed writers keep plugging away at it with hope that they’ll break through. But, of course, others give into the darkness, get hooked on some form of narcotic and start putting that masochistic creativity to work in figuring out how to end it all.
So your book only sold two copies. So no one understood the underlying message of your work and called it shallow. So the one person you based a character on not only doesn’t recognize that it’s based on them but tells you that they’re completely impossible to relate to. In the end, it could be worse.
After all, the rest of life is out to get you too.
I know I just said that it’s okay if only two people buy your book… but I’d kind of like more than just two to buy my books. Maybe I’m a little needy.