Writers Be Crazy, Yo

Welcome to the first installment of YAIA: You Ask, I Answer.

Way back when, when I demanded that you people give me blog ideas (lest I do terrible things to your house and home), I got a metric colon-load of ideas and questions. I’m going to start rattling off those one by one, week by week, which should take me well into… *checks his calendar*

… the year 2031, which is actually the year that the networked global hive-mind of bees becomes self-aware and entombs humanity in delicious honeycombs.

So, first up?

Suzanne asks:

How about something to help the ‘non writers’ get some insight into the writers’ brain? How is writing by choice/compulsion different from what we all did in school? What kind of things can we do to make our writing loved ones feel supported in their work? What do us unlettered folks do that is crazy making to you wordsmiths?

I can handle this one.

In short: writers are fucking moonbats.

We’re nuts. Rarely in a “dangerous to others” way, but sometimes in a “dangerous to ourselves and thus sometimes there happens to be splash damage, oops, so sorry, I got a little on you” way.

Writers are many flavors of crazy, actually. You want to know how many flavors? And what those flavors taste like? (Bananas and nuts.) I’m happy to speak to that. Every writer doesn’t possess every flavor of crazy, mind. We’re usually a couple-few of these — though I’m sure some amongst us are a compilation of all the flavors, a grossly turbid broth of gen-yoo-wine certifiable head-fuckery.

So, what kinds of crazy are we talking?

Baby's First Macro: Canon 100mm Macro Lens

Writers Be Depressed

I dunno why it is, but most creative people seem to suffer under the yoke of an overall spiritual sadness, some hungry chancre deep in the heart that occasionally nurses on one’s own will to… well, put on pants and join the rest of humanity. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing — which came first? The depressive who wanted to be a writer, or the writer who became a depressive? Do we cause depression in ourselves because we sit huddled in isolation by the cold fire of a computer monitor, hiding away from the vitamin-gifts of the daystar? Or do we choose to be that because we feel we deserve no better?

Writers Be Neurotic

We have our obsessions. We have our rituals. “The pens aren’t lined up right on the desk. I cannot write until they are. Sob! Gibber!” We look for magical thinking. We cling to weird superstitions. The page in our word processing program has to look just right, with the proper font, or our head asplodes. “What happened to my Courier New font? It’s gone. Just gone. I’ll never be a writer now.”

Writers Be Procrastinators

We will do anything not to write. “Oop! Lawn needs mowing. Carpet needs vacuuming. Someone’s gotta dust the dildo collection. Holy shit! The spice rack hasn’t been alphabetized in eleven days! Is this the primate house at the zoo? Anarchy, anarchy!” It’s pretty nuts when you think about. Do carpenters have that problem? “I can’t hammer this nail yet — the tires on my truck need rotating. And my toe corns need sanding. I’ll be back.” For some reason, even though the term write is in writer, we seem to think that Everything Else comes first.

Writers Be Distracted

Man, a breeze blows and we’re a dandelion poof, happy to be carried away. We are essentially raccoons and magpies forever obsessed with shiny buttons. We love our (fill in the blank: comic books, movies, video games, other pop culture nonsense, booze, meth, ostrich porn) so much that we’ll avoid writing to nurse on that teat. You know what we are? We’re the rats and chimps who keep electrocuting ourselves to get a snack. Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt. “I love these snacks so goddamn much.” Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt. “Mmmm.”

Writers Be Egomaniacs With Poor Self-Esteem

Doesn’t seem possible, does it? I don’t know in which order you’d arrange them, and maybe it’s different for every writer. Some choose to cover up their low self-esteem with false bravado, and others cover up their bloated egos with a veneer of false self-hate. Maybe it’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B. Who can say? Point is, us being “writers” is often meant to serve one face or the other. We write to prove our egos, or we write to fill in the big empty hole.

Writers Be Self-Destructive

Uh-oh! Late on another deadline. Late on my mortgage. Late on feeding my (fill in the blank: cat, child, self, heroin addiction). Acted like a dick at the day-job. Acted like a jerk to the family. Better drink more. Oops! In drinking, I accidentally erased my hard drive, and I didn’t back everything up — doh! Writers are full of misery stories, and usually you find the thread and track it back you’ll see that the origin of the problem is something the writer did to himself. We loosen the floorboard, then we step on it so it hits us in the face.

Writers Be Beautiful And Unique Snowflakes

Precious SnowflakeAnd now, now we get to the heart of the problem.

We writers like to think we’re special.

This post is a perfect example of that, actually. Here I am, leading you into the belief that we’re crazy, that we’re besieged by our own inadequacies and neuroses — and I guess we are. But so are a lot of people. We’re not special. Writers aren’t precious. Other people have problems, too. They keep on keeping on. So what’s up with us?

These things, they’re crutches. Excuses. We hobble along on crutches we built, and we point to them and say, “Hey, look. Crutches. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?” And we get knowing nods and someone pets our head, and they accept us poor, tortured artists as the beautifully damaged goods that we are.

These things, they’re anchors. We hook them to our belts. We let them weigh us down. We choose to be bogged.

To get to the second part of Suzanne’s question:

What kind of things can we do to make our writing loved ones feel supported in their work? What do us unlettered folks do that is crazy making to you wordsmiths?

First and foremost, support us. Everybody needs support. You need it. We need it.

Second and secondmost, while you’re supporting us, do not support our nonsense. We’re like drug addicts, and we’ll use any excuse we can find a fix. We love to get high on the fumes of our own horseshit. We need support like anybody needs it, but we don’t need extra-special handling and care. Oh, we’ll pretend we do. We pretend that, boo-hoo, we’re extra-sad today, or wail-weep-sob-wahhh, you just don’t understand how hard it is.

You want to help us? Don’t put up with that shit. I’m not saying to insult us or kick our teeth in — we may not be snowflakes, but nobody likes to be mentally or verbally beaten down. Just don’t let us get away with this.

Are we really crazy? Maybe. Moreso than anybody else? Probably not. We do exhibit the traits I noted, yes, but those are traits we’ve learned to embrace for whatever insane reason. And because writers are considered artists or snowflakes, these problems become self-propagating. It’s expected that we have these problems, and so we are allowed to have them, as if they are a crucial part of the alchemy that comprises the transformation of lead (our mundane suck-fest lives) into gold (our magical, beautiful wordsmithy).

But it’s not part of the equation.

It’s just nonsense. It’s garbage in the water that we cling to to stay afloat.

So, writers: get shut of it. Shovel yourself out of the bullshit and stop thinking you’re damaged goods. Of course you’re damaged goods. Everybody is damaged goods.

And, the writerly loved ones: help us get shut of it. We’re addicted to our own preciousness, and we’ve probably convinced ourselves that these Special Conditions are unique to us.

We need to break our patterns, and we’d probably appreciate it if you lend a hand.

This then goes to answer the middle part of the question:

How is writing by choice/compulsion different from what we all did in school?

The reality is, it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. In my experience, the people who claim that “they’re writers because they have to be” are often not actually writers at all. They claim to be compelled to write, and yet rarely, if ever, put pen to page or fingers to keyboards. Don’t let it be a compulsion. It’s not. A compulsion is a crutch. Let it be a choice. A choice you make every day. An active choice. Not a passive compulsion.

19 comments

  • I discovered over the course of my blogging venture that when I’m depressed I write my funniest shit, and when I feel good I write boring crap that no one wants to read.

    Don’t wanna be depressed though.

    Hmmmm.

    This was enjoyable. I approve of weekly. Of course, I find that I’ll be sitting here reading and end up snapping my head around and saying, “I smell poop. Did you poop?” and then I have to toddle off.

    I think I’d better get these in my inbox.

  • Holey rusted metal, Batman. Not to put too much of a shine on your snowflake, but that was one hell of a post. Writers would benefit from paying heed to your wise brain-meat squirtings today.

    • Someone! Quick! Draw a picture of a brain squiring something! Out of its cerebral meats!

      Ew.

      Anyway.

      @Paul — Thanks! We like to think we’re special. We’re not. It’s why most writers don’t actually… y’know, write.

      @Julie — I smell poop. I’m just saying.

      — c.

  • All of these types of crazy can be related, to wit:

    I’m sad because I’m running out of Jameson.

    I need a bit of Jameson to grease my mental wheels.

    I’ll go get Jameson in a bit, I want to finish this dungeon.

    What’s that? A new plot point in the game? The Jameson can wait a bit longer.

    I’m awesome without the Jameson. I shouldn’t need it at all… but I do.

    So I’ll drink more Jameson.

    Glug, glug, glug.

    (This comment was not brought to you by Jameson Irish Whiskey.)

  • Poetry. I *am* a beautiful snowflake! Yay!
    I was worried that I was the only procrastinating writer out there. I’m surprised I’m responding to your entry now, and not a week from now.

    Wait, something shiny…

  • Writers *are* like snowflake. There’s a million million of them, and they melt ever so quickly.

    Here’s a question for YAIA. In the course of researching a topic, what sort of strangeness have you brought into your home? For example, I enjoy supernatural horror, so I have a bookshelf in the den that looks like I wiped out Aleister Crowley’s garage sale: “A Necromancer’s Guide to the Black Arts,” “Anatomy for surgeons” circa 1900, “Ritual Magic of The Golden Dawn,” etc.

    • Tome —

      Well-done. I like the spin on the metaphor.

      In answer to your question — I have a mixture of odd books, to be sure. Parasites, the occult, mythology, the Bible, lots of books about the CIA and NSA, children’s rhymes, travel guides. But I dunno that it’s super-strange or anything. Book shelves are almost always home to weirdnesses big and small.

      — c.

  • This was well written, well thought out, and well received. I hope everyone out there gets a better understanding of writers, and writers get a better understanding of their own bullshit. It needed to be said; Chuck said it.

    It doesn’t apply to me, of course. I’m unique. If I could just find the energy to put on some pants, I’d tell you exactly how unique I am. Of course, that comes after my morning hangover smoothie (with cream-less Oreos, to match the bleak dark of my reality and show how there really is nothing good inside)and I’ll.. I’ll… It’s not important. You can’t possibly understand me. I mean, look at you, you can’t even spell “you”, can “u”?

    Totally doesn’t apply to me.

  • Wow. Now that’s a picture of a cherub with a problem. That wasn’t the topic, after all?

    Chuck, I hope your post helped that Suzanne person, because if it’s the one I’m thinking of, she can use all the help she can get.

    Oh, and I can check off too many boxes of crazy in your post. So much, in fact, that I’m concerned about my day job as a therapist. “A therapist who’s a writer has a fool for a client,” is what I heard.

    K

  • Awww :) Chuck picked MY question first! -wow- all the other questions you got that day were from your word-brethren i figured mine would be like a second grader at a cocktail party: “that’s nice dear, now run along.”
    And the big surprise is that you have exactly the same issues that i do – which means that either i am a writer too ;) or that we are all just human. And as we are made in God’s image we all want to bring forth something from nothing, order from chaos… Dedication to one’s chosen creative pursuits and the taming of our ‘monkey minds’ are worthy goals indeed. I have been thinking about my quilting as practicing incremental accomplishment and life as legacy, committing words to a page is very much like that. Thank you for showing us your clay feet (hummel ref ;)), you are less magical but still cherished. And that Keith fellow better watch out, i got me a can of whup ass with his name on it :)

  • Oh wow. I just found this article now. And it’s amazing, and kind of hurts because it’s true. It made me realize that I haven’t written since I finished NaNo. I made excuses, I got depressed, and you know what? You’re right. You are absolutely right. Excuses and depression are things that everyone uses as crutches, and that’s the same now as it was back in February 2010. I think I’m going to print this out and hang it on my wall, if you don’t mind.

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