Jonesing for affirmation

Der Arme Poet

Carl Spitzweg, The poor poet,1839 PD|100 yrs via Wikimedia Commons

Writing is an addiction. Oh, we don’t start out as garret-dwelling addicts. No, we start out as young people with bright futures, occasionally toying with that gateway drug–short-fiction.

At first it’s just thrill-seeking–writing a few short-stories and flash-fiction, just to see if we can. However, once we’ve felt the rush of  hearing the incredulous words, “You wrote this? This is good!” we are hooked.

The next step is often NaNoWriMo. Once you’ve done that first NaNoWriMo, you’ll never be the same.

Some fortunate people manage to walk away from it–they just do one NaNoWriMo, and quit, forever.

But for the rest of us, we are now on an eternal cycle of getting our word count and stream-of-consciousness-writing, and it will take us to the gates of perdition. Or to a local writing group–same thing, I am told.

No sane person thinks we can actually write for a living, but we can’t fight the urge.  We know we can do it, if we just keep at it. We crave that affirmation again, that incredible rush of “Oh yeah–I knew that story was all that, and I wrote it!”

At first, we still have some basic common sense. We know it isn’t cool to just quit our jobs and expect our family to live in a garret, starving, so we hang on to our day jobs and begin sneaking around, writing in secret, hiding it from our closest loved ones until we accidentally blow it–we are so high on the adrenaline rush from the incredible scene we just finished writing that we just have to tell someone.

After all, that scene is the turning point for the entire novel, and it’s golden!

So, not wanting to see the glazed look in your spouse’s eyes again, you tell the dog. Of course, the dog just has to tattle on you. Dogs can’t keep secrets, you should know that.

tumblr_ndi15fZRpu1syd000o1_500That is when it finally comes out that your every waking moment is spent on some aspect of the writing craft. Our family knew something was going on,and they were worried about our behavior.

But we’re so far gone by now that we don’t care.

If we’re lucky, the family is comprised of consummate enablers. Desperate to have some normalcy in their lives, they will try to keep us from becoming unkempt, shabby, pajama-clad writing-seminar junkies, bankrupting them with our endless, rather costly, efforts to “improve our work.”

They tell themselves that we’ll out grow the habit if they help us control our addiction. They encourage us to join free online writing and critique groups. They toss us a bone by giving us the occasional second-hand book on the craft of writing, usually by a famous author.

on writingThey have no idea just how potent an injection of inspiration that garage-sale edition of “On Writing” by Stephen King is to a hopeful author, and unknowingly they just make our condition worse.

At parties we have a sixth sense, always knowing who the other writers are just by the way they can’t focus on the conversation, and can’t wait to get  back to their work in progress, surreptitiously keying notes into their cell-phone and pretending they are texting.

We’ve never met them before, but we find ourselves exchanging knowing glances and sneaking out to the patio with our new best friend, bingeing on Leonard Elmore quotes about writing, and sharing a few morsels of Orson Scott Card’s writerly wisdom.

leonard elmore quoteA new brother-in-arms and Leonard Elmore–we’re high as a kite and having fun now. What a great party!

Shocked faces stare out the window–it’s apparent we’re having too much fun, and our families suspect we’re “ranting about our novel again.” They drag us back into the light, despairing of ever having a “normal” life again.

An intervention and rehab looms in our future.

It won’t work. It’s not an addiction you can just walk away from. When they’ve taken your laptop away and hidden the pencils, and still they catch you forming little sentences out of the ‘o’s in your cereal bowl, they will know there is no such thing as recovery for the writing addict.

Don’t worry. Soon, they will be begging you to just go to that bloody writers’ convention and get it out of your system.

Heh heh. Like that’s ever going to happen. Soon, you will be hanging out at the local coffee-shops, looking for people with their laptops open, trying to make unsuspecting new converts to your dirty little habit.

“Are you a writer too? Ever do any NaNoWriMo?”

“Wanna share a little “Writer’s Digest? C’mon, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like it’s illegal, or anything.”


Filed under Books, Humor, Literature, Publishing, writer, writing

4 responses to “Jonesing for affirmation

  1. Dang! My cell phone notetaking habit has been discovered! You “crack” me up, Connie . . . *grin*


  2. Stephen

    The best aspect of going through an MFA program in creative writing was the competition among the writer-wannabes. I felt rather accomplished when I arrived only to be quickly put down as a rank amateur. Thus, I had to up my writing game to compete with them for the professor’s admiration. Not only did the competition sharpen everyone’s writing but we all learned to steal the best of others and twist it for our own use–much like writers do with the world-at-large. I felt some of the same with the ABNA cohort. We are all trying to “be the best we can be” (stolen from the Army) and that raises all of us to a higher standard!