My Particular Brand of Crazy: Why I Hate Writing Fiction, But Do It Anyway

Trying to be a professional fiction writer is hard. People who’ve read older entries will know that this is a well-covered topic in this blog. I write about it a lot. Like, a lot.

It’s not just the lifestyle itself that’s hard though. It’s the actual writing, too. Writing is time-consuming and can be extremely tedious when you’re working on a draft other than the first (I’ll write more about drafts in a later blog post). Getting your prose exactly right takes multiple tries and a lot of nitpicking. Making sure that character behavior makes sense, that dialogue is purposeful and “sounds” real, that continuity aligns throughout your story–all of these things take time and work beyond the exciting first draft.

For me, a lot of the problem is that I don’t really like writing in the first place. I’m okay once I’ve begun and gotten into a sort of rhythm, but that doesn’t mean I like doing it, any more than workers on a chain gang liked digging ditches once they got going.

Here are some of the reasons why I’m so grumpy about writing fiction:

  • I hate sitting still. Always have. My body wants to move, and it begins to rebel if I go too long without letting it.
  • I’m often at home writing when my friends and family are out having picnics and going to concerts and hiking and spending time with their loved ones or sleeping.
  • Every time I write it’s a new opportunity to fail at bringing the stories in my head to life in an interesting and–dare I say?–beautiful way.
  • After all that sacrifice and emotional turmoil, it’s supremely unlikely that I will ever see a dime for my work, or than anyone will read it in significant numbers. In fact, if I never write another word in my life, nobody in the world other than myself will care. (I don’t say this to be self-pitying; it’s a fact. If Nabokov had never written Lolita, he’s the only person who would’ve known the difference. That doesn’t mean that nobody’s glad now that he did write it.)

“But it’s okay because you love writing, right?”

NO.

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I hate writing. Hate it. Here is a list of things I would rather do than write (things which I often do, in fact, to avoid writing):

  • Clean the litter box
  • Dust the floor molding
  • Scrub the toilet
  • Paint furniture that doesn’t need to be painted
  • Rearrange the spice cabinet
  • Do my taxes
  • Chop all of the fruits and vegetables in my house into small cubes

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So why do I do it?

Because I’m not good at anything else? Because I can’t think of anything else I can contribute to my fellow human beings?

Sort of. But if I’m being honest, that’s not really it.

It’s because I am a little bit crazy. My brain is constantly occupied by stories, by made-up people and their made-up conversations and their made-up problems. If I see real people having real conversations about real problems, my brain finds out a way to turn them into made-up people. I reorganize everything I see and hear and feel into something manufactured. I do this naturally, without wanting to. I often wish I didn’t. They keep me up at night, these imaginary people. I think about them all day long. I worry about them. I often see things that remind me of them and say, “Hey! That’s where [Made-up Person] lives!” or whatever. They feel, to me, like real people.

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I know they’re not real. They don’t control my behavior or my emotions, and I am lucky in that way.

But I also find that I am not able to relax until I write down the chaos in my head. I can’t let go of it until it’s taken the form of words, organized and made logical and clean and, hopefully, meaningful.

I write, despite the fact that I don’t love to, because I have to. Because my life and my brain don’t make sense to me otherwise. And that’s really all there is to it.

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