Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Things that go by the wayside for writers

There are lots of things that writers are good at. Sitting still for long periods of time with only their own thoughts in their head for company. Inventing whole new worlds. Making pretend people come to life. Making a reader see a picture in their mind using only a collection of well-chosen words. Typing. Procrastinating. There are all sorts of things at which writers do regularly, and at which only a writer can excel.

But... there are also many things that writers are bad at. When you're busy trying to write novels / stories / terrible pulpy romance novels, there are so many things that necessarily have to go by the wayside. So few of us can make a living from our art that we instead spend our free time holed up in a semi-darkened room with only a laptop, a notebook, and a mug of tea for company: friends, what effect does that have on us? What, in other words, do we 'miss'?

Socialising. My friends still wonder why I glance around shiftily and make excuses when they invite me out. People never understand when you tell them, "I've got to write". "WRITE SCHMITE!" they shout. "YOU CAN ALWAYS WRITE TOMORROW BUT THIS INVITE TO COCKTAILS IS A ONE-TIME ONLY OFFER." Not that it matters, even if you do go out, because the next thing that goes by the wayside in the writer's life is...

Having normal things to talk about. People at work always want to talk about last night's telly, and I DIDN'T SEE ANY OF IT, because I was TRYING TO WRITE A NOVEL. But you can't tell people at work you were writing a novel: they won't understand, and anyway it only makes you look like a pretentious wanker. So instead you tell them, "Oh no, I must have missed it, I was painting the bathroom." And then your workmates think you are weird because you, apparently, have spent every evening for the past 3 years painting the bathroom. "How big is her bathroom?" they must think. "Does this woman live in the Golden Gate Bridge?"

Having normal social skills. You spend your evenings missing conversational telly, and having conversations with imaginary people who, by the way, most definitely did not exist until you made them up. It makes you a bit twitchy when people talk. For one thing, you find yourself mentally editing everything they say; and for another, you start obsessing over whether their character really would say that sort of thing, or is she just saying it to drive the plot forward at the expense of realistic characterisation? Viewing every human interaction as an extension of your plot quandary starts to make you look a bit strange. If you didn't already look strange enough.

Currently Reading

In Pursuit Of The English Doris Lessing
The Complete Maus Art Spiegelman
Twilight Stephenie Meyer (my friend lent me it, and I didn't want to be rude)
Soho Keith Waterhouse

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