The one thing that I have written on this blog that drew the most attention was my attempt to explain writers to the public at large. You sent me a lot of emails with suggestions so here it is again, with some added description. While there are exceptions I do believe that most writers will identify with these traits. If I have missed any, I am sure someone will point it out.
I am taking it upon myself to speak for my fellow scribblers. We are an odd lot so some explanation seems appropriate. For instance, if you see us in a crowd of strangers (a very rare occurrence – we don’t get out much) we will be the one in the corner, not talking. You might think we are a snob, or aloof, or at least a non-communicative dolt. That is not true. We are shy. We have always been shy. We express ourselves by writing much better than we do by talking. However, if we are still working we will probably be in some vocation that allows us to project an outgoing personality…like an actor or in radio or TV or the recording industry. We are the kids who always got the lead in the school plays, while offstage we had little to say and were usually quiet. We have had full time non-related jobs, but we have always been a writer.
If you offer us a drink or a snort of cocaine or a hit off your hash pipe, we will decline. We have already fought those demons and keep them in check by constant surveillance. If not, we wouldn’t be here; we would be dead. Writing is hard enough when we are sober.
We have probably been divorced, perhaps multiple times. That is because we are moody and difficult to live with. Not that we are abusive, in fact we strive to be courteous to our spouses especially in public. But we are daydreamers and often our minds are off somewhere just when our spouse feels the need for us to give full attention to his or her feelings.
We are not usually good with children because most of us came from dysfunctional families and we never learned how to deal with “little” people. We would like to have a pet, but knowing that pet will die sometime is a hurt that we would find hard to handle.
We are voracious readers and we have been known to visit people and spend time reading their books and magazines while our spouse carries on a conversation. We seldom go anywhere without a book.
We don’t belong to book clubs, or writer’s “forums.” Those things would just take time that we could use better by writing. If we are called upon to “read” from some of our work at a group, we might do a poor job of it. That is because when we read something we have written in the past it is like reading someone else’s work, so we may stumble over words.
If we go around with what looks like a sad expression on our faces, it is usually because we suffer from some sort of depression. We have been, and probably still are, in therapy and we may take anti-depressants. Telling us to “buck up” and “choose to be happy” just lets us know that you have never known what real clinical depression is.
We are grateful for your comments on our work, but we won’t take your advice. Not that we are unappreciative but whether you like, or don’t like, our characters is immaterial. Our characters are not “us,” we are just the purveyors of their words and actions. Strange as it may seem to you, we don’t put words in the mouths of our characters, they speak for themselves.
We will listen to you tell us about a great “idea” you have for a sure-fire best seller novel, but we will let you be the author. We know that when you say you need just s tiny bit of advice with it, that you want us to write your novel. We don’t do other people’s work, unless we get paid for it.
Even after years of experiencing the same phenomenon we are still amazed that you can get so emotionally involved with our characters. We are glad that you identify with them; it means we had done what we set out to do. But we are merely craftsmen; we take pieces of a puzzle and put them in a cogent form. Our books’ characters are not real people; they exist only in your imagination.
We don’t take criticism well. We are human beings and if you take something we have written and attack us personally on it, we just accept that you are an asshole. If you take offense at something we write, that is your problem. We hate “political-correctness” because it stifles free speech. The “buzz words” diversity and inclusiveness are just excuses to allow shallow people to feel good about themselves and serve no useful purpose.
If you pick apart the work we do, we challenge you to write a 150,000 to 200,000 word novel, make the plot logical, the characters seem real, and the situations plausible, and do it in less than a year. Then, and only then, will we be willing to give any credence to your critique of our work.
We may not cry at the funeral of a relative, even a family member. It is not that we are callous but we prefer to remember people as they lived, not as a lifeless corpse. But if you look closely you might see us cry at a picture of a child hugging a tombstone, or when we are listening to some piece of music that touches our hearts. We don’t hunt or fish because we probably would cry if we killed an animal, even accidentally. Even if we didn’t cry, we would feel badly.
We don’t write for “fun.” Writing is not a hobby with us, it is a compulsion and we really have no control over it. It is, quite simply, that we MUST write.
Politically we are ambivalent. Unlike Hollywood “stars” who use their status to raise money for politicians we long ago decided that there is no such thing as a “good” politician, regardless of how they label themselves. We feel much the same way about lawyers. We do vote; as a patriot it is our duty but we feel that all elections are rigged so our vote is futile and we know it.
We are fiercely independent and yet we are totally loyal. If you are a friend we will defend you to the death. But if you betray us, we are through with you forever and no apology will be accepted.
We may never make a living from writing, but a short note from one reader who received pleasure from something we have written is all the encouragement we need to keep doing what we do. One such note outweighs the thorns of a dozen critics.
You likely will not find us on Facebook or Twitter, except to link to our published works, because social media is a great waste of time which we can better use reading or writing.
We are scrupulously honest. We could no more steal something or cheat someone than we could fly to the moon. We are trusting – we believe that what you tell us is the truth, it is our nature. This often gets us taken advantage of by agents, publishers, advisors, so-called friends. And when this happens, it breaks our hearts. We’ve never been able to say “no” and this often leads us into situations that are not to our benefit.
If you ask us a question about some book we published some years ago, we probably won’t be able to answer. Just as you don’t recall every book you’ve read, after we write them we forget them too.
We don’t believe in “experimental” writing, or so-called “stream of consciousness” writing. That is just run-on sentences and the worst of grammar. We know that all good books have the same simple ingredients: Man against man, man against nature, man against himself. And we try to incorporate all those in the books we write.
And finally, if you are not a writer none of the above will make any sense to you. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean.