I sent an email the other day, thanking a friend for her kind review of Gilman. In the process, I talked a little bit about what the writing experience is like for me. Shawndra suggested that I expand on those thoughts for the blog.
Let’s start with this: Writing is hard.
The act of writing is essentially a painfully slow form of telepathy. My job is to somehow take an image from my head and reconstruct it in your head. Using nothing but words. This is the lowest fidelity information transfer technology ever.
At best, the image that you receive will be an out-of-focus, poorly illuminated, improperly framed daguerreotype of what I had in mind. If I’m lucky, you’ll get my point.
On the other hand: Imaginary people can be such fun.
Seriously. The most funnest part of writing fiction for me is that moment when my characters have developed far enough – once they have personalities of their own – damn, what a rush! All I have to do is point ’em in the right direction, and then they just do… well, stuff. All I have to do is write it down.
But then there’s this: Imaginary people can really piss you off.
Okay, so it’s really fun when my characters start to act like real people, with their habits and eccentricities, living as best they can in my little constructed universes. But, of course, that’s the problem. They act like real people – they start wandering off on their own, just going wherever they want, the hell with whatever story I was trying to tell. Ungrateful wretches.
And another thing: Writing is lonely.
Not much to add to this one. You cannot write a book in more than one head at a time. Oh, sure, you can take turns with other people and pass the work back and forth, you can edit as a team, et cetera, et cetera. But the part of the writing that you do, you do it all by yourself inside your own mind.
Well, except those imaginary people, if you are very, very lucky.
And finally (at least for the short list): Fear, uncertainty and doubt.
If you know me, you know that my ego is, well, let’s just say it’s a healthy part of my psyche. So you might not believe how frightening it is for me to imagine letting my stories loose. When I’m writing, there is this continuous sense that it’s just crap, that I’m deluding myself that anyone would ever want to read it.
That, of course, might be true. Or not. But if I’m compelled to write, then I am also compelled to doubt. Now that just doesn’t seem fair.
So why write at all?
Because it’s hard and it’s lonely and it’s infuriating and it’s scary. And it’s because of those moments – when it’s going well, when the characters are playing on that stage in my head just for me, when I know (at least to me) the words are good – those are moments I cherish.
In the end, for me the experience of writing is an exercise in managed schizophrenia.