We are schizophrenic. When I talk about writers’ schizophrenia I get overwhelmed with a feeling that I’m trying too hard, falling back on writer stereotypes in order to reinforce my position as one. But that’s not true.
I don’t know about other writers, but I pretty much always have a collection of voices in my head – the characters of whatever piece I’m working on, recently my novel The Last Ginger – vying for attention. Not to mention the loudest voice: that of the novel itself, its inner working and flow.
It’s kind of like the book and its children, the characters, live in my brain and react to the world around us at the same time I do, and it’s hard to know who to pay attention to. All these voices demand attention! They beg to get out, and the only release is in writing and yet writing makes the problem worse at the same time.
We are conceited. It’s more or less a requirement of a successful writer to be your own number-one fan. No one else is going to write query letters about how great you are, no one else is going to fundraise for you.
Writers have to believe that their writing is worth wasting an innocent person’s time and believe that it is capable of doing that at all. In order to have these beliefs about the self, other beliefs are implied: the belief that you are the smartest person in the room, the belief that you have exhaustively investigated a theme or successfully answered a question.
Without this level of confidence, the writer cannot succeed, because your mom is not going to come write your query letters for you.
We are not that conceited. Um, yeah, here’s the problem… WRITERS HAVE CONFIDENCE ISSUES. We more or less engage our poor projects in ruthlessly abusive relationships that indicate at the bipolar: sometimes we love our writing and think it will sell better than the Bible, and sometimes it’s poo and we should put it where poo belongs – in a toilet and flush it away and never ever think about it again because it’s poo.
It’s a hard life to live, always unsure if you’re the best or the worst. Obviously the reality is that I’m neither – of course I’m no JK Rowling, what was I thinking? But my work is good, and it can go somewhere. Yeah, this nice inner monologue of balanced self-support pretty much only comes out when I’m blogging about it.
It’s hard to brag about how you’re the shit because most of the time you’re not convinced you’re the shit. But you have to convince other people, so you fake it. Which probably doesn’t help the schizophrenia.
We have impossible competition. Books are good, dude. Have you read Harry Potter? 1984? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Books are awesome and new ones keep coming. As an avid reader I am plagued by good books and how they enchant me and piss me off!
It’s not even just books. Movies and TV are also forms of storytelling, and I consider it all the same. A good story is a good story, period. I panic when good stories end – when Aang takes away the Firelord’s bending, when Voldemort dissipates into Hogwarts’ good clean breathing air, when Darth Vader is put to rest forever – I panic, because these incredible stories have already been written, and I do not get to write them myself. Which would have been awesome.
Our art is dying. So I said “books are awesome and new ones keep coming” but I don’t think it can be denied that fewer people have the time to spend or enjoy reading. Every day I realize that most of my friends view books as a waste of time in their daily lives, and this is something I have to get used to if I want to have friends, pretty much.
Besides this, I am one of those romantics who desperately clings to the paperback and whose apocalypse will be the day all books go electronic and I’m forced to buy a Kindle or whatever.
I don’t want to write a file on a computer. I want to write a book in print that people will touch and love and feel guilty spilling juice on and bicker with their siblings about whether dog-earing is a show of literary affection or not.
So sorry if we’re all a little rude. I’ll post later about why we’re all assholes.