Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They Say We're Craaaaaazzzzzyyyy

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”--E.L. Doctorow

This is one quote I keep coming back to time and time again as it's one of the most truthful sayings I've come across throughout my meanderings on the web. Writers:  They say we're craaazzzyyy; Maybe we're craaaaazzzyy; I think we're craaaazzzy; probably.  Okay, I'm turning off the Gnarls Barkley machine now.  Incidently, for the longest time I used to believe the artist performing that song was none other than "Charles Barkley".  I used to think to myself, man, is there anything that man can't do?"  I blame the blonde highlights. 

Alright, back to the blog.  As writers, we are all absolutely out of our minds.  Why, you ask?  Because no other profession--except, perhaps, the health care industry--deals with the absolute frustrations and all out disappointments that our chosen paths do.  In no other profession does one have to bear their soul to the entire world for its harsh criticism, praying to the God's of publication to grant us their ultimate approval.  In no other profession is rejection met with the cold, impersonal form letter of doom.  As writers, we spend weeks, months and, in my case years, mulling over the stories in our heads that won't shut-up (more on that later).  Then, once we finally decide to commit to our "someday I'm going to write a novel" statement we've all made to our family and friends, we virtually torture ourselves over character development, plot lines, dialogue, research (so we don't sound like idiots), and a slew of other gems that come with the territory.  Everything has to be perfect, a fact of which we beat ourselves over the head with repeatedly.

In most professions, after that insane amount of time and work is expended,  the project is considered complete. For us writers, however, it's only the beginning.  Upon completion of the first draft, we begin to realize the torture we thought we were experiencing  before was nothing compared to the hell of revisions. Revisions; the bane of most writer's existence.  I have yet to come across an author that likes doing them and, if I ever do, I will have no choice but to question their sanity.  All the hard work the author has poured into their manuscript is cut.  Dialogues and scenes are dramatically shortened or deleted entirely; moments of sheer genius are rendered meaningless.  Revisions leave no stone unturned and, even after you've gone through your manuscript 5...6...even 7 times, you've still not caught all that will later be found wrong with it by an agent and/or editor. 

After the revision process comes the even more sadistic querying process. This is a whole knew demented breed of animal of which I addressed in earlier blogs.  The bottom line is, even with all the blood, sweat and tears we pour into our novels, the majority of them--and a good share of us--will be met with nothing but rejection and heartache from the overlords of conventional publishing and our families and friends who want to know when our novels will be on the bookstore shelves and when we're going to purchase our first yacht.

Why, then, do we write?  We write because the fiber of our beings demand it.  There's nothing more exhilarating than completing a story that has been burning a hole inside you anxiously awaiting to explode onto the pages.  We write because that's our identity.  The written word is how we've chosen to express ourselves, how we want to expose ourselves to society.  We write because, well, maybe there's a little craaaaaazzzzzyyy in us after all.

So...Sara, that quote you mentioned earlier has absolutely nothing to do with the rantings spewed above.  Well, the mention of schizophrenia made me think of crazy and crazy made me think of the rigmarole we writer's have to go through to get a bite of the apple of success.  The rest just snowballed from there.

The way I take the wise E.L. Doctorow's quote to mean is that, in writing, we all hear voices (whether we're willing to admit it or not).  These voices are the characters in our books pleading--in some cases, demanding--for us to tell their stories.  For me, I had the storyline for Enigma Black on constant repeat in my head for nearly ten years before I finally began hammering it out.  As writers, we rely on these voices to give us ideas, to foster new ideas for novels.  As annoying as they can be (and as crazy as they can make us feel), they are our best allies and we'd be incredibly screwed if they were to shut-up completely.

Embrace schizophrenia.  Your readers will thank you for it.

My next blog will feature some of the deadliest sins a writer can commit.

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