Most of us go through our day trying to look normal, or at least fit in with the people we are around. We try to hide those awkward parts of ourselves so that we’re not different. Humans are social creatures… even one as hermit-esque as me. At the end of the day, we all want a tribe that accepts us for who we really are.
I used to have that in one person. My grandmother. Oh, she wasn’t a perfect person and she knew that I wasn’t either. Despite the fact that we were both flawed, I loved her unconditionally. I never doubted that she felt the same way.
But that kind of relationship is rare, especially in today’s world. When she passed I lost someone irreplaceable, but I tried to surround myself with people who could fill the gaps anyway. People who didn’t look down on me because of my opinions on guns, or sleeping in on my days off. People who didn’t get personally offended if I needed to be by myself and reset when the world got to be more than I could handle.
You see, I’m shy and outspoken. Fragile, but determined. I don’t try to be anything except comfortable with that conflicting image. Some days I want a hug. Others, I can’t lean on anyone at all, or all I’m learning how to do is stand with a crutch. And then I hate myself for it, because when that crutch inevitably goes away, I fall. I’d rather learn how to stand under my own ability, to be a whole person on my own, so that I can play with my friends.
Or, as I used to say, I’m a full pound of crazy in a half-pint bucket.
And I’m okay with that. It’s what makes me want to write. It’s why I like being around writers, because a lot of the ones I have met kind of fit that template. You are my tribe.
We are kind, but we torture our imaginary people. We are honest and social, but we disappear for weeks on end to write lies about made up places. We are shy, but we want to be noticed.
And we are, above all else, brave.
Most people want to deny that they have a dark, scary place inside of them that whispers terrible things. They want to feel like they are good and pure (or, at the very least, not outright insane).
Writers look at that scary place and see a gold mine. We acknowledge the loneliness, the abuse, the tears that others bury deep in their subconsciousness … and then we write it down. We publish it. We commit for posterity that we had these unacceptable thoughts and chose not to hide them.
We’re all a little bit of crazy.
That made me think, though. Do we like to write, or do we need to? When I’m reading, it’s obvious to me which stories exist because the author is a professional and it’s their job, and which ones had something more intimate to say. The ones that came pouring out of a writer like it was their personal therapist.
Writing can be a job. Sure. Get your time in, do your word counts, practice. Publish. Win. There is not a thing wrong with that. But for some of us, it’s therapy first. It’s getting the words out so that they stop eating at our souls. It’s reading the same from other people and feeling them on a level that goes deeper than the words, and knowing we are not alone.
I have no respect for any “professional” who can’t see that. They should be able to understand that the world is big enough for both. The advice to therapy writers can’t always be “do this, and that, and fit in”. Sometimes it’s “put the book down, see a therapist, and understand what drives you so that you can talk about it better.” Or one of a million other ideas that aren’t centered around how many consecutive days we made enough words come out.
Now, if we want to be successful, serial writers then yeah, it sure helps to do word counts and deadlines and market, oh my. But it is not the only way. There is nothing wrong with telling a one-off story, or even a couple of them, in your own time and pace.
If there’s a story eating at you, write it down. Take a week. Take ten years.
It’s okay, you are still “doing it right”.
Because you are a writer.