Monday, February 12, 2018

On writing: You don't have to be crazy to work here

I’ve described my relationship with writing as something to close to those “Wuthering Heights”-style romances, where you can’t imagine living without each other but there’s also a 50 percent chance that one of you will be arrested for the other’s murder. I’d never put up with this level of obsessiveness and frustration in any sort of relationship with an actual human, but when it comes to writing I can’t seem to stop myself. The question of whether I actually enjoy writing is as irrelevant as whether I actually enjoy breathing. 

What I didn’t realize until recently, however, was the effect that watching my relationship with writing had on my sister. She’s a scientist at heart, but she’s got a wonderful science fiction universe set up where she gets to play with different alien races and the interaction between them. She’s mostly at the planning stages right now, but she’s sent me some snippets and they’re wonderfully entertaining. 

For years, however, she was too frozen by anxiety to really explore any of it. She’d seen me write for years, and had come to the conclusion that the only proper way to be a “writer” was to basically throw yourself in it and drown the same way I had. Since she wasn’t willing to devote an immense chunk of her brain to the idea, she decided that she couldn’t write any of it. 
When she finally told me all of this, I disabused her of the notion as thoroughly as possible. And if any of you out there feel the same way about some spark of a story kicking around your head, please let me disabuse you of it as well. 

Literally the only thing you need to be a writer is an idea and the vague thought that maybe you should write it down. You don’t have to be one of those intense “writer” types that often appear in popular media in order to qualify for the term. It can be a fun thing you do in your spare time, the same way another person might take up knitting (and believe me, there are some intense knitters out there, so pretty much every craft or talent has a sliding scale of obsession). 

And yes, there are a lot of “rules” out there for writing, but the truth is that those are mostly important when you’re thinking about having a wide range of people reading your work (or are hoping to get the attention of an editor or publisher). If you’re just writing for yourself, or for your family and friends, you don’t even have to stress about the “rules” all that much. (And even then, a lot of the “rules” end up not being all that true anyway.) 

So, if you’ve got a story idea you’d kind of like to write down somewhere, go and do it with my blessing. You don’t have to be crazy to be a writer. 

Some of us just do it anyway.