Saturday, September 20, 2014

Top 10 Things Non-Writers Don't Get About Writing

My two biggest long time hobbies are drawing and writing. I don't always put my work up for everyone to see and I admittedly got really lazy for a long time, but I do spend a lot of time doing both.

Having recently gotten into a new writing project, however, I was reminded of just how little non-writers really understand about the writing process. To my friends who aren't writers, I love you all but seriously, some of the things you do are really annoying, and so I'm here to let you know. These are the top 10 things that you really need to understand about writing.

10. Writing dark stories is not a cry for help.
For some reason I don't understand - maybe some strange leftover urge from Lit class - all non-writers always seem to assume that anything you write is a secret allegory for your own life. This is especially true if you tend to write darker stories like I do; if I had a nickel for every person who read one of my stories and then tried to play armchair psychiatrist to me... well, I'd probably have a few more nickels. No, people. The fact that I'm writing a character with an abusive father does not mean I hate my dad. The fact that a character dies at the end does not mean I'm suicidal. It's called creating drama, you uncultured philistines.

9. I can hate any character, including my main character, and write them anyway.
Of course, liking them does make writing a whole lot easier, but it's not a necessity. This one, as near as I can tell, ties into the above entry. Non-writers assume that the main character is meant to be the author him or herself, so obviously if I hate my main character then I must hate myself, right? No. It doesn't work that way. The truth is that as you write your creation will take on a life of its own, which is also why...

8. Yes, your own writing can legitimately surprise you.
Non-writers are always flabbergasted by this one. How could a story you write and that you presumably had planned out in advance surprise you? It's true that I usually have some idea of where my story is going to go before I write it. It's also true that often, by the time I get to the parts I had spent so long planning in my head, I suddenly realize what I had planned is not something that the character would actually do. At all. I've had entire stories pull a 180 on me before. It happens.

7. Don't ask me what my story is about.
This one I'll admit is kind of weird. If you ask me about a book that someone else wrote I can tell you all about it. It's about a guy who does some stuff and then stuff happens as a result so he has to do some other stuff, the end. But ask me what my own story is about and suddenly I draw a complete blank. It's not that I don't know, I just don't feel like I can do it justice with a short description. If you really want to know what my story is about do me a favor: wait until it's done and read it. But do remember that...

6. No, you can't read it yet.
Even though stories are not necessarily auto-biographical they are a writer's emotions being put on display. It's been said before that being a writer is like showing your butt to the world; well, if you've gotta do it, then you at least want to make sure it's clean first, right? Just relax. You'll get to read it at the same time as everyone else. Honestly, you probably wouldn't like what's there right now anyway since...

5. The first draft is never, ever worth publishing.
I often hear non-writers ask what is the purpose of a "rewrite." They always have this idea of a master writer sitting down and writing out a flawless masterpiece on the first try. This idea is absurd. Even Stephen King's first drafts are crappy messes of loose plot threads. You just don't realize, because you never see it. And while we're on the topic of publishing...

4. Don't ask me when I'm going to get published.
I don't know. I might never get published. I might not even be trying to get published. Believe it or not a lot of writers write as a hobby, and even those who do intend to get published might not want to publish every work they write. Among writers there is what's known as "trunk works." That is, works that you finish and then hide in a trunk in your attic because, for whatever reason, you just don't want anyone to see it. Maybe it's not as good, or too personal, or maybe you were just using it to try out new ideas. Whatever the reason, it's not going to be published. (And people, please stop posthumously publishing trunk works from famous authors. You have no idea how much of a dick that makes you.)

3. Also, if you try to read my story over my shoulder, I will punch you.
As I mentioned at the start, my two major hobbies are drawing and writing. Needless to say I quickly developed a habit of sitting at the very back of a room with no one around me, because both of these hobbies draw in looky-loos like flies to a trash can. If I don't want to let you read my story yet, then I definitely don't want you looking over my shoulder at it.

2. And if you try to take my notebook away so you can "fix" my story, I will kill you. (And it will be a closed-casket funeral.)
Now that I'm a 6'6" grown man with a shaved head who looks like he could stomp most people flat and occasionally makes small children cry, people don't do this anymore, but back in high school I was just a fat nerd and yes I had people try to snatch my notebook away so they could "fix" whatever it was I was working on. The worst part was they didn't even think they were being jerks. Both of the people who did this to me were close friends who honestly thought that they were helping. They were not helping.

1. It is extremely @#%$ing obnoxious when you disturb me while I'm writing.
You think it's no big deal. You are wrong. Writing is an extremely emotional process. I actually have an entire ritual I go through to "clear the air" and get myself into a proper mindset before I sit down and write. Once I get into my writing it's not something I can just stop and then pick back up on a dime.

I'm going to put this as clear as I can for all of my non-writer friends out there, and keep in mind that there is no exaggeration in this statement at all: Being interrupted while you're writing is exactly the same as being interrupted while you're having sex.

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