I have been absorbed in the world of Bear, Beth, Billy, Cammy and the other Zombie characters. When I write, that is the way it is for me. I jump in and it is as good as a movie for me, in many ways even better. The craft, or art, of writing is like that for me…
I imagine it is like that for other writers, I know several, but I have never really asked. So, for all I know, it is only me. That sort of brings me to my topic for this week. Writing and writers.
I thought about this the other day. I do not have any non-writer friends. And, I realized the other day that I live in a bubble. I don’t purposely live in a bubble, but, a bubble is a bubble, purpose built or not.
Some of it is unavoidable, because of the way I am, the rest is how it becomes because of that same thing. My time is my own. there is no one at all to put designs on it, make me feel guilty about how I spend it, and, I have lived that way for so long that I am pretty sure I could not be housebroken now.
Not all of my writer friends do that to the same extreme that I do, but nearly all of them do it to at least a lesser degree. To me eighteen hours of writing is no big deal. To me pounding out a novel in fourteen days, also no big deal. But ask me what day it is? That isn’t a joke. I can not tell you how many times one of my friends has said, ‘Hey, it’s Friday,’ and I’ll look at them like they’re speaking Russian. ‘What do you mean Friday?’ ‘Ha Ha.’ ‘No, it really is Friday,or Tuesday, or the 28th, or whatever.’ Of course I’ll look at a calendar, watch, something, like they would really take the time to lie to me. They’re writers but their imagination isn’t that good, is it? Nope. It’s me. I fell into this world or that one and the time slipped away. It’s that simple.
What is pretty cool, what makes it so addictive, as a writer, is watching something come from nothing at all. No, I do not know where it comes from. I can not force it to come if it isn’t there. I have rarely been able to write exactly what I choose to write either, but when it shows up and it’s right there at the tips of your fingers, pouring out onto the page, and I am reading it, it is amazing. When that happens I don’t want to stop. I am afraid that if I do the words will go someplace else. To someone else, and they will write my story, only it will no longer be my story, it will be their story. So I hang in there, type, let the magic pour out of my fingers, and then someone says, ‘Uh, you do know it’s Friday, right?’
That is writing for me. And there are times when it has to stop. When sleep has to take over. And in the old days I would come back from that break for sleep, slouch back to my chair, stare at my monitor, and think. Well, that’s that. My head is empty. The story is gone. Shouldn’t have gone to sleep. Two seconds later the words are pouring out. The story is back from where ever it went to and I am along for the ride again. So when my other writer friends ask me about how I wrote this or that I really have no answer. In fact, usually I’ll look at them like, well, where do you get your stuff? Walmart Writers Aisle? Or I’ll get the writer I don’t understand who will give me the song and dance about how he or she plotted this out, and then did this and then pulled teeth to write it, and then… I have no idea what he or she means. The process is not that way for me at all and I have tried it, writing on demand, the same way they do it, and I turn out stuff that seems like cardboard.
That is not to say I can not write something off the cuff. I can. But, it works this way: Someone says, ‘Hey. Could you write me a story about a three legged dog that stops to sniff at a dead cat on the interstate during rush hour traffic, gets run over by a Semi and comes back as a Vampire dog that sleeps in the woods, flags down Semis on the highway and kills the drivers as retribution?’ … ‘Uh,no… Sorry. And, if you can find someone who can, well, you should hire them.’
But, I will go back and think… Hmm a three legged dog… Dead cat… What the hell happened with that cat anyway? And why didn’t the semi driver stop?… Hmm…Maybe he didn’t stop because he was distracted by the truck stop cutie he had picked up… Right, and the cat… The cat had been on the way to it’s kittens which were across the highway… Hidden in the woods… And I’ll work it out in my head like that. But then I’ll set down and the story just shows up. It ends up being about the Truck Driver and his drug addicted Daughter and it turns out the Cat and the Dog were simple distractions. Huh, I’ll think as I write it. I’ll be damned. Then, just at the end, the damn Cat comes back, abetted by her three legged dog friend, and kills the trucker. And I’ll think ‘Son of a bitch, I never saw that coming.’
Let me give you an example: In the Earth’s Survivors series, Molly and Nellie, major characters, are along on a resupply trip. Nellie gets shot and killed. I am shocked as I write it. I stop writing and think, ‘Wow, That sucks.’ I wonder about undoing it. In the old days I would have highlighted the whole scene and then deleted it. Kill a major character? No way. So I would then spent hours, days, weeks, re-writing it. And all to no avail because after that period of time I’ll see it had to happen that way because that was the story. Now, I may stop, look, but then I’m back at it. I am curious to know where it is going now. What will Molly do? Well, if you read it you know; Molly could not deal with it. She turned her own gun on herself before anyone could react fast enough to stop her. Another shock to me. But, that is writing to me. That is the gift God gave to me, and the way it comes out of me.
I suppose people will read that and think, bullshit. But it really is the process for me. And for all of the writers I know too, at least the ones I hang out with. And, hang-out is a loose term for me. I don’t hang out with anyone at all, not really. Hanging out to me is giving up that time I was talking about earlier, and I don’t like to give that up. So hanging out might be a 3:00 AM Skype conversation. No, no camera, just chat. If the conversation lasts more than ten minuets before it lags, then something is really wrong, and that is not just me talking.
The other person has some sort of project open on their desktop, same as I do, and they are either writing as we talk or thinking about writing as we talk, or actively wishing I would shut up or get to the point, so they can go back to writing. I know that because after the ten minute mark that is what I am doing, and the few times I have asked a writer friend honestly what they are doing they say those things, or, they are not as diplomatic as I am and just tell me to get to the point or shut up. No, that doesn’t offend me.
That is the craft of writing for me with all of the mystery and magic stripped off. I guess it is about as attractive as that dead cat in the road, huh? I wonder how that cat got there…
Have a good week…