Monday, November 17, 2014

Writers Are Closet Narcissists

Give already. Write and you suffer your ego. Write and you long for attention. Write and you long to be on the New York Times bestsellers list. You ego-driven bastard, you.

The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a defined disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Shall I raise my hand for all of us in the crowd? 

I've got to make a little room to accommodate my self-absorbed self (is that possible, two selves?). Without it, I am a lump of clay who wouldn't write a damn word. Because the flipside of the writerhood coin is the inferiority complex. Who is good enough here? Who, I demand to know? None of us. 

And all of us. 
Ego balm

Words are simple tools to deliver good, evil, and truth. Any person on the street can express an opinion or tell a story. It's a short trip to actually writing those verbalized ideas or thoughts down. Writers do -- in story form. We tell the tale, and by God, try to do it while entertaining the rest of you who never'll lift a pen.

Pens? Who uses those?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How to Be a Writer, Part Two

Have I mentioned my love of words here before? Okay, since that's been established, let's get serious. How do you take that love and manifest it? Countless friends and acquaintances have shared with me that they, too, want to write a book. I may be one of the few writers who doesn't yawn, roll their eyes, or excuse themselves from the conversation when this unsolicited confession is proffered.

Of course, you want to write a book! Who wouldn't want to be an author? Authors are sexy, mystery, intellectual, filled with wanderlust. (Let me delude myself at least for a sentence.) How often do I hear the name Hemingway tossed about in literary conversations with non-writers? We all go through our Hemingway phase (if just in our heads, and I'm due), and then we realize, okay, that doesn't work.

Let me tell you, the grand idea for your book will take you a long, long way. It will cuddle you at night. It will occupy your thoughts through dinners, holidays, sex, walks, snowstorms. I say, let it. If you have an idea germinating, who am I to tell you with a large flourish of my hands and a dismissive toss of the head, you're delusional.

Follow your delusion for a while, because it might get your project started -- that big grand idea of a novel that sweeps readers from epic corners of the globe and back again with characters no less wonderful than a James Bond or Natty Bumppo or Holly Golightly. You won't know unless you try.

If you do start, the most important part is to reach the end. The hardest part of any writing project is, as you would suspect, the writing. If you can't write through to an ending, then you'll never have something to work with, throw in the drawer, stab with the butcher knife. Really, you won't have something to revise. You won't have a draft to obsess over for two, five, ten years and wonder if you've lost your sanity. (That's a major theme on my blog, if you're just now joining me.)

That book in your head? It's all in your head unless you write it. So why are you here reading what I've written when you have work to do? Good luck.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Be a Writer

You've come here with hopes of learning how to be a writer. Isn't that my unspoken promise to you, as a writer and a blogger? Show you the wisdom? There are plenty of blogs saved on microprocessors at remote servers, housed in large manufacturing facilities, sucking up the AC and the electricity that will tell you: Here's How. You do this, then you do this, then you try this, and suddenly, you hold the brass ring and you are making money and you are happy and fulfilled.

Sorry. Wrong place.

Here's a funny story. I've recently acquired a cat. He is now half of my animal holdings. My dog and my cat have come to terms with each other. They are, despite their species, very much alike. We have negotiated a routine. I sit at my computer every morning, trying to work on something productive, and they watch me. There's no delusion on my part that they watch because I often eat my breakfast at the screen. Yogurt. Cereal. Today, a bagel. They are rapt because of my bagel. The aroma of toasted wheat and melted butter, who doesn't have a little chubby for bagels? I wave it over their heads and they follow this potential treat like a god-head. They follow it with their instinct, eyeing it as it circles in their sky (hey, I can tease, I feed them), and they flick their tongues, purr and wag, and believe the bagel will drop from on high and life will crack open into nirvana.
Worshiping at the Bagel Goddess

You think the same thing about reading blogs about writing.

Here's what I know. No bagel will do it. Bagels are too easy. You think like an artist. You are. But writing for commercial gain is a business. At some point, you'll find yourself making decisions based on forces that are counter to what brought you to the writing table in the first place. You will recognize creativity is good; the commercialism, at best, is annoying. Maybe you'll find nirvana by not thinking about either; you just write to write; or, alternately, you just write to make money. Very few do both.

My best advice? I have none. Maybe it is one of the reasons I blog, because I come here and try to figure out this path. Here is the dumping ground for my head junk -- on the page (more accurately, remote server) rather than the un-air-conditioned manufacturing plant of my brain. Lately, I've been focusing on reducing distractions: the chatter of world news, the infinite worries of parenthood, the price of bagels. Distractions suck the life out of writing.

So minimize them. Go write. Wallow in your creativity. Butter your bagel, snarf it down, and get back to me about how it went.