I’m pretty sure my mental picture of a famous writer is the same as yours:
Hunched over a desk, working feverishly in the dead of night by the wee glow of a candlelight. Plenty eccentric, a bit frazzled, he/she may or may not be the most hygienic person, dressed in disheveled neutral colored clothes, etc.
Now, not all writers are like this. Heck, I’m not exactly like this. Writers are all different except for one thing: we’re all a little weird.
You have to be. It comes with the job.
It’s almost a lifestyle – wait, it is a lifestyle! Writers are required* to live and breathe their current work – you can’t blame us for being a little peculiar. When your head is constantly dwelling in an entirely different world (that you created!), how the heck do you expect us to appear normal?! …It’s not like we care or anything, though.
Writers are also required* to ask questions. Our curiosity is probably genetic – it kind of comes with the creative mindset. We can’t help it. But our frequency of questions isn’t the abnormal thing here (scientists, news anchors, and plenty other professions ask a LOT of questions as well). It’s the content of our questions.
You see, if writers asked all the right questions, the questions the readers asked, we’d be horrendously boring. So predictable, so generic, too…normal. (Unless you’re a journalist…then you’ll probably want to stick to rational questions) Writers must ask the wrong questions. The creative ones. The dumb ones. The “deep” ones. The unanswerable ones. The ones no one thought of. That’s where a story comes from. (Among other things, that’s another whole spiel.) Our job is probably the most fun one on the planet: we’ve got to look at things in normal life and either see them through a completely different perspective, or ignore them entirely and create something new to take its place. The mission is to find the questions people threw away, or that have been unanswerable for years and not necessarily give it an answer (oh, no, never a straightforward answer!), we just have to make it worth answering. The readers will fill in the blanks. (That basically makes us teachers, right?)
The last thing we writers must always remember is simply not to care. If you care too much about what your readers might say, if your thoughts are controversial, if some people hate you, if no one likes to read you, you’re wasting valuable time. There will always be people who can’t stand what you write about, and there will always be people who feel the same way. You can’t control how people feel about what you write (and it doesn’t really matter anyway), you just have to get it all out before you explode.
That’s why some writers look as if they’re on another plane…because, well, they probably are.
*it may seem like with all these “required”s, I’m spouting a job description, but writers pick up on these naturally. As I said, it’s second nature. A good book or poem or essay or other piece of writing stems from being totally engrossed in the work. Artists and musicians assume their positions in similar ways.
- The Writer as Detective – NY Times.com