Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's Wrong with Your Writer?: A Non-Writer's Guide

I am soundly convinced that people who don't write don't understand what it's like to be a writer. As I writer, I have a few confessions to make. You non-writers sometimes really don't understand me. I'm going to explain why. (After re-reading this article, I realized it came with a good bit of snark. Please, this is all said in love and adoration for my non-writer cohorts as some of them are my readers, too. ;) )

  1. When I enter into the world where my characters live and you try to engage me in any sort of conversation, you are interrupting me. You are literally interrupting me mid-sentence. I don't care if you can hear me talking or not. You've interrupted me. It's like waking someone up from the middle of a dream; it's not like I can just close my eyes and go straight back to what I've spent hours building myself up emotionally to be able to write. Thank you, you've just destroyed half a days work. 
  2. When you enter my zone... This is just wrong. My ideas sometimes escape my head and float all around me for me to admire and toy with. When you walk in, you scare them off. Sometimes you scare them off so horribly I get writer's block. This is a serious disorder. It can last for ages. Once again, you've just destroyed a days work and possibly put me out of work for several more days, and there is no unemployment check issued for writer's block.
  3. When you disregard when I'm getting "called back to the office". You may not get this, but my characters are one of my bosses. They are the story. If they decide I need to get back to the office then I have to get back to the office. Your attempts to derail this are not appreciated. Also, I am not crazy just because I answer the call of my ideas. I don't look at you weird when you take a work call in the middle of our luncheon, do I?
  4. When you treat my character discussions (whether they are to myself or to you non-writers) like I am being an insane housewife arguing over whether a certain throw pillow will tie my whole room together. It's not the same. Picking and choosing character traits is quintessential. It defines the plot, which is either engine or machine of the whole book. It's like using the wrong materials to build a bridge; if one thing is wrong, the whole thing will collapse.
  5. When you add anything to my mess. I don't care if my desk is a disaster, it's a mark of how I've moved forward in my work. If that mess is moved forward by someone else, it's all I can see. Sometimes I mark by progress by how many cups of coffee or Mountain Dew cans have accumulated around me. Screwing up that equilibrium is like screwing around with my alarm clock.
  6. When you assume my house should be clean because I work from home. What's wrong with you? I work full-time. In fact, because I work for myself I usually work more than the normal 40 you put in. It's actually statistical. Go ahead, check the facts. I'm pretty sure that's it's more like 60 hours that self employed people put into their work.
  7. When you enter my zone... this deserves more analogies. What if I just showed up at your office just to ask you a "quick question?" Wouldn't you be a bit embarrassed if I did this a lot? It depends entirely on my mood whether "I knocked" is a good enough excuse to bother me.
  8. When you think that my modes of inspiration seem like I'm procrastinating, wasting my time, or being lazy. If I watch a movie and you see tears, trust me, it's work. If I'm searching tirelessly for a certain version of a song just so I can listen to it a million times while I write a certain scene, it's work. It's like trying to drill in a tough screw with a screwdriver instead of a drill; without the proper tool to drive the screw home, it'll end up messy. Worst case scenario being that the screw is stripped entirely and everything is ruined. Everything ruined.
  9. When you think writing and all the parts of it aren't work. Just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean you get to treat me like it's not work. If you lived with me and actually saw how it torments me at times, you'd know, it's work. Also, just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean I don't get angry with it. Just because you love your kids doesn't mean that they can't annoy the living hell out of you sometimes and make you flippantly say, "What made me think I ever wanted to have kids?" You don't mean it, and when I say, "why would anyone want to be a writer?" I don't mean it either.
  10. When I scream or grumble or look utterly frustrated for no given reason and you think I'm angry with you. Like I've mentioned before, a lot of work for a writer happens in their heads long before it comes out on page. So if I feel like having a hissy fit and I'm just sitting there looking unprovoked, don't assume it's about you. You've once again entered in on a moment that does not involve you.
  11. When you cannot possibly understand that writers "take their work home" with them probably more than any professional out there, with the exception of health care professionals perhaps. We live and breath emotion. That's our job. Sometimes I get sunk so deep in my characters that if they just experienced heartbreak, I too am feeling heartbroken. If they are angry and ready to murder someone, I am seething as well. And if they feel like going out on an adventure, don't get irritated because all of a sudden I want to go have one myself.
  12. When you disregard "works been tough", "I've been having a lot of late nights in the office", or "I've been having long days at the office." This means the same to me as it does to you. Writing doesn't just mean make-believe. It means make-believe and then reconstruction. It is engineering something new and the process is just like a real world engineer. You start off with an idea and sketch it out. Then, you go back and figure out the components that it would take to build up this idea. You test it out, and when it comes back failing tons of tests, you have to figure out how to fix it so it passes. If you change one component, six others may need to then be readjusted. There are times when you want to pull your hair out. Remember how in math class your teacher told you that these precise calculations mattered because if you started building a bridge and was only one inch/centimeter off on one side that you could be several feet/meters off on the other side, resulting in a collapsed bridge? Yeah. So when I'm telling you that I just found a huge scene that was played off a scene that I ended up deleting in the redraft and I just now realized it, I'm telling you I've collapsed the bridge.
  13. When you think that chatting to my writing friends is the same as hanging out with my regular friends. It is not. Sure, we cut up and sometimes we don't talk about writing at all. But, last time I checked, when you're on your lunch break with your co-workers you aren't always talking about work. It's nice to just take a breather from writing with people who know what you're struggling through. These people are important to have good relationships with because when it comes time to have beta readers, they are the front line. It's basically like asking someone to pile hours onto their already encumbered workload. It's like asking your friends to volunteer to be crash dummies for a new car you've designed. This car just happens to be going on an intense outdoor test course, and you might have not put in the right shocks to prepare them for the ride. It could be painful for them, possibly excruciating. What's worse is I have to like them enough so that when they get off that ride and the hell fury comes from their lips and it hits my ears, I know that they say it all because they love me.
  14. When you don't get how blogging, formatting, and social media are part of my job. Hello, I'm trying to make sure my other "boss" knows I'm working. I'm smiling and giving progress reports to my boss. See, whereas most people have one boss and the upper management above them, I have thousands of bosses. They are called readers. They are who pay me. Don't get angry because I go out of my way to make sure they are happy. If you think this isn't the same, be absent from work for a few days without any good explanation and see if you still have a job tomorrow. You won't. If I don't put myself out there, I lose readers. Sure, I can get new ones, but you could get a new job, too, couldn't you? And see, when I get new readers, it's like getting a raise. So be happy when I'm happy about my progress.

 Thanks to all the non-writers in my life who tolerate what you assume is odd behavior. But, just so you know, in writer world I'm entirely normal.

Share this if you know some non-writers who need to see this or if you want proof that you are not the only writer who does these things.


  1. YES! All of this. Thank you for saying it (and the snark is very, very necessary).

    1. Thank you for commenting! I was really starting to think I was the only one here!

  2. I could say all of these aloud everyday.
    I feel your words and usher greatness on you for being brave to announce them.