Writers are a mad lot. I doubt you’ll find anyone to refute that statement. When you sit next to a stranger and they ask what you do, and you say ‘I’m a writer,’ you’ll probably experience one of three reactions:
1. They will smile, say that’s nice, and change the subject.
2. They’ll say ‘Really? Me too!’ and you’ll have an instant friend.
3. They run away screaming.
There are several symptoms of being a writer (well, more than several, but I haven’t enough room or gigabytes to write them all here).
• You will be awakened in the middle of the night by a character announcing themselves very loudly on the doorstep of your brain, demanding to be let in. You have no choice but to acquiesce, and spend the rest of the sleepless night brainstorming his or her story.
• You find yourself analyzing every movie you watch and book you read – and the more you do this, the faster you figure out the plot. (It’s actually a tad bit annoying – I happen to like surprises!)
• You take strange statements to be compliments. For example, my brother once remarked “You know, no offense, but you writers are weird.” I beamed an ear-splitting grin the entire drive home.
• Your brain automatically saves anything of interest – lines, sub-plots, characters – from anything and everything, and they manifest themselves later in your literary endeavors.
• You realize that you know more about human nature than other people. You’ve seen, to paraphrase what Jenny put so eloquently, through the eyes of the hero and the faerie. You know what goes on inside people’s heads. You know how they feel when someone says something wounding, you know someone is smiling like nothing’s wrong, even if everything is – you know full well the power of words.
• Every actor, singer, and celebrity in general that you see becomes a ‘possible character model.’
• If you see the word ‘writing,’ ‘writer,’ ‘author,’ ‘pen’ ‘book’ ‘novel’ ‘story’ or any other word pertaining to our craft, you instantly stop and backtrack to see if it was an article of interest.
• You find that your mind wanders more and you forget things. I have a theory – and I am not alone in thinking it – that this is because our brains are too full of the cosmos inside, spinning with ideas and characters and plots and subplots and lines and situations and costumes and details and POV’s and books that most information we receive tends to leak out drains marked ‘Unimportant.’ (Which is, of course, very handy for a writer, but awful for life skills.)
I know some people who say they’re writers, but I know they’re not. Just because someone picks up a pen – or a pencil, or a keyboard – and writes something doesn’t make them a writer. ‘Writer’ is a title that only happens after you become so emotionally attached and entangled with that part of you that you are inseparable, and know you always will be. Being a real writer involves being a real reader.
When the death – or pain, or grief – of a beloved character wrenches your heart and cascades tears down your face. When the laugh – or smile, or sigh – of a character makes you laugh, or smile, or sigh along with them. When you see the hero’s flaws and the villain’s heroic aspects, but still see the hero and villain for what they truly are. When you root for the dark horse, the underdog, chanting “Win! Win! Win!” even if he has no chance, because you love him. You love her. When you stay up far too late at night, turning page after page of a life story that is not yours, but enriches yours beyond measure. You feel your heart break at the death of someone you loved; someone made of words and images who may not be flesh and blood, but is still just as real. You laugh and cry and might even write some fanfiction to fix a sad ending or put two people together you knew were intended for one another or just to make yourself smile. And you finally close the book and put it back on the shelf, come back to reality, and smile because your reality is made all the better for that little world closed between a cover and a back that sits amid other little worlds. And you tell everyone you meet about that journey and the people you met and the villains you fought and heroes you loved and friends who died and the person will look at you and ask when this happened and you stop and blink and say “Oh… it was all in a book I just read.” And you sit back and look out the window and smile to yourself, because they will never understand. But you do.
And you open another world.
Or better yet?
You write one.