There are things that go on inside a writer’s head that are, to put it bluntly, scary. And it has a lot more to do with the writer than their plot. See, writers are driven by an insane need to get words down on a page. It’s a compulsion that borders on obsession and that drives them to do what they love more than anything else. Writing is, for most writers, the only work they’ll ever face that never feels like work.
But, the mindset of a writer — the insecurities, the ego, the occasional bursts of insanity to get the perfect words onto a page — differentiates us from a lot of other people. Of course, the average reader has no idea what this mindset is all about. So, to help you readers out there better understand what we think and feel, here’s a short list of stuff that I’ve experienced myself and that I know — know — other writers have, too.
Writers don’t see what you see or hear what you hear. They see and hear a lot more. Ever talk to a writer and watch them get a faraway look on their face? It’s not that they’re not listening to you. It’s that they’re listening to you. Writers hear more than the spoken word. They interpret facial expression. They match mood with tone. They study body language when two or more people are talking. They don’t look at a sky and see blue or listen to a bird and hear a chirp. Instead, they visualize a deep, azure sea at the height of a steamy Mediterranean summer, and listen to whistles and tweets that invigorate nature and make everything around them come alive. And then they use that to create scenes in their head.
Choosing the right word and sometimes agonizing for hours over it. Make no mistake that a writer sometimes has a blissful moment when the words just come out naturally. This is not, however, the norm and doesn’t happen as often as people think. Most writers write and rewrite and rewrite. And rewrite. And then do it again. During this process, some writers (like me) will agonize over the best word for hours. Or days. So the next time you pick up a book that you absolutely love, and that engages you to the point of breathlessness, remember this: the story didn’t come easily. Instead, it was borne out of blood, sweat and tears.
Revisions revisions revisions. Which suck, suck, suck the life out of the writer. That book you just read last week? It wasn’t the first thing that flew off the author’s fingertips. Odds are it was the fifth. Or tenth. Or even twentieth. There’s a saying in writer circles that the book the reader buys isn’t the book the writer started with. By the time it hits ereaders or brick and mortar shelves, the book has morphed so much from its original form that you’d never recognize a comparison between the Shitty First Draft and the final copy. All of it because of revisions, some of which can happen right up to the month just before release!
Why isn’t my book selling? This one makes me shudder just thinking about it. In today’s age of technology and easily accessible information, it’s easy to want to watch your sales figures. Which, much like revisions, suck the life right out of the author. But the biggest worry, and the one that make writers clench their gut and drink more than they have to? It’s wondering why your latest baby isn’t selling the way you want.
Jealousy. Every writer experiences this. Every writer compares their career to another writer. Every writer wonders why another author seems to be doing better. Is more successful. Has greater exposure. If a writer tells you they never feel jealous of another writer, they’re lying.
Treat me badly and I’ll make you pay for it in my next story. I might even kill you. Yep. We all do it. And I’ve done it, too. It’s called payback and it’s the sweetest revenge that exists for a writer. Piss us off enough and we’ll create a character who will make you pay for your misdeeds and wrongdoings — sometimes through the slowest torture imaginable. Bottom line? Be nice to us! Better yet, be nice to everybody. Life is too short to be mean.
So there you have it. What a writer really thinks, in those moments we aren’t writing.
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