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the fiction writer and their mania.

July 17, 2011

emily mentioned that she and chris had been talking about the difference between fiction writers and nonfiction writers, and then she and i started talking about it. and the point of the discussion seemed to be along the lines of fiction writers being a bit… um, how should i put this? more with their heads up their asses. that fiction writers seem to be, sometimes, less aware of their surroundings and somewhat more narcissistic. that we are airy fairy. i’ve never written any non fiction, so i can’t attest to the non fiction way of writing, but her comments really got me thinking about the way i write and if i’m just being overwrought as i do so.



i get teased, sometimes, because i have pictures of the men i consider my muses pinned up on my walls. and people think that this idea – of the muse – is so antiquated that a modern writer shouldn’t adhere to it. and that sort of ridiculous-seeming stuff seems to be the hallmark of a fiction writer. and i’m not sure that i’m the best person to attest to how fiction writers write, because i’m not sure that the way i write is “correct” or “normal” – but then again, there doesn’t seem to be a standard for how people write fiction, does there? yann martel told us that he writes each line meticulously, and then goes back right then and there and edits it, and then edits it again, and does this painstakingly for the whole novel. and faulkner claimed that he wrote as i lay dying in six weeks and that there were no edits from rough draft to final draft. and i am writing my thesis like a contractor tries to raise a building off of its broken bottom beams – by starting out with a compact first draft, and then inserting myself into specific scenes, and trying to add more words, and expand, like insulation foam. like water turns to ice and forces open a container in the freezer. injection.


i wonder if it is mania that we writers submit to. certainly i feel a lot less balanced after a day of writing. when i write a story, i am in there.

i have often wondered what i look like when i write. i think my face must change as i write. i must smile as i write something that i think is funny or sweet, and i know that i cry when i write something that i perceive to be sad. i cry all the time as i write, actually. i cry when i read what i wrote. not because i think it is particularly universally beautiful or touching, but because in my mind i am so connected to the people i am writing about and so therefore for something to happen to them makes me upset. and to feel that? to be able to have your facial expressions and your moods change merely because of something you are writing, not anything around you, or external? how amazing is that? so powerful, the force of words! so powerful, the lives of my characters!

i could see how that might appear to be too dramatic or overwrought to some people – that we fiction writers look like drama queens, sitting at our computers, weeping softly over the keyboard. (this is why i don’t write in coffee shops! libraries suffice because carrels face inwards and i don’t care if book nerds see me cry, but coffee shops are far too public). heck, even writing it out sounds ridiculous. like we are somehow doing it for the attention. look at how empathetic and stunning i am while i write! look at how much i love writing!

but it’s not that. it’s not that at all. it is because i am so very involved with what i am writing. and how can i not be? these are people that i have made from scratch, little poppets of hair and skin and teeth, characters that have come (mainly) solely from me, and my mind, and my inklings and leanings. these are almost children in that i am in charge of them, i have made them, i am to care for them. i move them around their settings with care and grace, and when they go through what they have to go through, i am sad, i am angry, i feel so badly and strongly for them. as they learn their lessons. as they destroy themselves. there is only so much i can do for them. there is a point where i sit back and watch them do what they have always been meant to do. and maybe that sounds crazy. maybe i am a little unbalanced, as so many writers have always been in the past, in the present, in the future. but in that unbalanced brain of mine, i have immense and glorious power. fiction gives you such, such power. you are allowed to sit down and indulge, and write whatever you want to write. what a beautiful thing to be so involved in the lives of those characters.

and i don’t see a problem with that. maybe people don’t understand. or don’t care enough to understand. but every time i sit down to write something, it is something unreal and glittering from my imagination, a new damn world that i can put myself in. i go places, i see things. i am a mute observer. i am a carry-on, a side-along. i cry when they cry. i laugh when they laugh. and when i pull myself out of that world, after writing as much as i can, i feel tired and pale. i feel very tired. maybe that is why i can appear airy fairy. i give my all so often to the writing, and then, afterward, sometimes person to person contact can feel clunky and forced.

so that is how and why i write fiction. and what it is like for me.

speaking of fiction…

eff these things make me laugh.

i think i found my spirit animal.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2011 1:03 am

    hhhhhha! the actual remark I made to urness was that fiction writers tend to have more boring lives, not that they are more “airy fairy”! which was a remark not intended for you, nor was it meant to dis fiction writers too much…. it was mostly a way for me to justify my reckless, decadent and drug addled lifestyle!

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