Today, I’m interrupting my writing flow for a little bit and doing the social network check-in thing because I need a break. Maybe you know this from personal experience. or maybe you don’t, but writing is a lonely business. We word bleeders spend an inordinate amount of time all by ourselves. Any given day, we can be found clacking away over keyboards and cramping our hands with our Bic Rolling Writers; capturing things and storing them in cheap lined spiral notebooks we found at Walgreen’s; hoping we can read our hideous handwriting later. Especially the parts that had us so excited that we started writing like the guy in A Beautiful Mind. Which is disturbing, because we do consider ourselves “normal”;even though there may be times when we can’t lay our hands on clean paper and seriously considered asking for a friend’s white shirt as a stand in. That’s normal. Right?
When I feel like stopping to check in with the world on Facebook, or Twitter or Linked In or some other place where people who have real jobs might wander through once or twice a week, I’m torn between feeling like I’m connecting with real people or just doing the wraith thing; a drive by past those who build stuff or heal things or do some work that counts as “real” in the wide world.
I used to feel that way until I started “following” some of my favorite authors and other creative people on Twitter; Christopher Moore, Lilith Saintcrow, Brandon Sanderson and others. There they were, stopping their own writing day to be a human for 140 characters. Some post periodically throughout the day when they just need to vent the steam lid of their head. Like me, they do it so the world they are writing doesn’t become more real than the place where we actually live. They tweet about food they are cooking and odd things they were researching for their latest books. They post photos of their dogs and comment on current social situations they hold an opinion about. They behave as if they didn’t spend thousands of hours dreaming and writing in worlds that hold dragons and demons, and post apocalyptic necromancers. I liked that.
Writing, like many other creative endeavors that don’t require other people to help you make it real, isolates us. It can take its toll on the people you live with. It takes its toll even on our pets, like my Great Dane, who comes to lay at my feet and occasionally let’s out a vocalization that sounds remarkably like “Why the hell have you been in that chair for seven hours?” Her eyes get sad when “mommy” disappears again into the invisible place in her head where the characters live.
I had fair warning that this would be part of my life as an adult. I was that weird kid in the corner of the classroom, especially during a writing assignment, who was hunched over her desk and writing like a madwoman, page after page, and stealing glances at the clock to see if I had enough time to wrap it up with a bang. I’d finish what I was writing and let out a giant exhale and finally look around at the kids nearby who were staring at me like I had grown a giant horn atop my head and I might start yodeling any second now.
When teachers asked us what we wanted to do with our lives, I really wanted to say I want to make people laugh and I want to make them cry when they read what I write. I want to make them see what I’m seeing in my head and sometimes, I want to make them so sexually aroused that they’ll really need to take a cold shower. I want to make them fall madly in love with the characters that I make-up and I want them to quote a line one of them said because it meant something personal to them. I want people to read my writing and I want them to begin to look at the world around them differently than they do right now. I want to write things that help people find answers to questions they didn’t know they had. I want them to relate so well to one of my characters that they color their hair the same color, paint their room to match or maybe even get a tattoo somewhere on their body and every time they look at it, they’ll think of that character and what he/she would have done in their place.
That’s what I wanted to say to the teacher who asked what we wanted to do with our lives. Instead I said, “I want to write.” It sounded less maniacal; less arrogant and grandiose. But what I wanted actually was grandiose. Who wants to write things that are forgettable? What I glimpsed as a kid, that little bubble of creativity that surrounded me in a classroom while I gleefully raced my pen across the page at the teacher’s starting gun-that bubble only fit me inside of it. There’s only enough air in there for one, and though you can see the world around you, you are removed by a thin clear membrane from its touch while you are inside.
Social networks allow a writer a moment outside the bubble where they can check to make sure the world is still out there. Leaving word breadcrumb trails and graffiti humor on the walls of Facebook or Twitter let’s us exercise our word demons. Jumping jacks! Give me 50! Go! When we read another writer’s description of their writing process and the small things they do to maintain balance in their lives when they come out of their own creativity bubbles, well, it let’s us know we aren’t the only weird kid in the corner. Like you, reading this, right now. Hey, Weirdo! How’s it goin’ over there?