I fell prey to a stereotype a number of years ago that nearly cost me everything. You see, Hollywood and other media outlets have created this vision of what writers are. So often people have an image of what writers do that includes being sequestered away from the world, agonizing over every word, while we’re chain smoking or drinking heavily. Whether we’re actually alcoholics or just addicted to coffee or teas is another discussion entirely but, it is safe to say that the stereotype has us all addicted to something. I am certain that there are a great many authors out there who fit this stereotype quite well but, I am not one of them.
It strikes me as amusing that people think that we don’t interact with others or that we are hermits. We’re artists and in order to write about people, to create characters, we must actually interact with people to have an understanding of different personalities. We must, as Julia Cameron says, “fill the creative well” with ideas and inspiration. And ultimately it is in living life that we find that drive and push to be inspired to create whatever we become known for.
There is no denying that writing takes a certain amount of solitude. We learn that there are critical times in which we must get away and focus on what we need to accomplish. We do agonize over the right words, the grammatical faux pas, and even the right descriptions for our settings. It isn’t difficult to lose yourself for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months while finishing a project. But the fact remains that eventually, all writers must get out of their offices and experience something outside its confines.
I’ve always been a very vibrant personality. Just ask my mother, or any of my friends for that matter, and they will all tell you that I am quick to laugh, quirky, personable, and compassionate. They will also tell you that I can be quite the ham if you put me in front of a microphone. But that happens rarely these days. They’ll also tell you that for the last few years, I was very different from the person I had been. And they’ll likely say that they were worried about me.
It is funny how things can get away from you before you even realize it is happening. In my case, it was a sort of forced hermitage. Yes, I was writing but things came slowly. I was in a situation where I couldn’t go out and be around people other than my parents. And because I was trying to save a marriage that was failing miserably, I allowed it to happen. In the process I gained a lot of weight, became depressed, and eventually came to feel so isolated that I really didn’t think anyone would care if I just disappeared. There were days in which I sat for hours staring at my blank screen wondering where the words had gone. Other days, I gave up and played computer games or just slept. It was a dark time in my life that I honestly don’t care to repeat.
I suppose my ex thought that by keeping me at home the words would come and I would just be an overnight success and he could stay home after that. I don’t know how many times I tried to explain that counting on the books to make consistent full-time income was unrealistic. I mean, every writer wants to be a best-seller and make a million dollars. It isn’t a bad dream as long as it is tempered with a dose of reality. Keeping me at home wasn’t the way to make that dream a reality though.
Artists, including writers, need to be stimulated. We need fresh air, laughter, people to talk to, and experiences to write about. To relay anything to our readers we need to be able to experience it first hand. From the feeling of silk on your skin on a bed to the rush of riding a roller coaster, everything can be an experience. Emotions need to be experienced. Falling in love, coping with death, the birth of a child, parental love, the loss of a job, or even the thrill of taking a big vacation all of these things we can imagine but, to truly relate them we have to go through them ourselves in some way.
Putting the writing aside, you can’t sell books if you don’t meet people to tell about what you’re doing. You can only do so much of that online. Forums, facebook, blogs, and other social media will only take you so far. If you’re boring and all you post about is the fact that you released a book, it won’t get you any brownie points with the public. It certainly isn’t going to sell books.
Personally, my life has changed tremendously in the last six or seven months. I’ve gone from being at my lowest to feeling as though I’ve found not only my calling in career but also in life. I am experiencing emotions like love on an entirely new level. I am living life again and taking advantage of time with family and friends. I’m meeting new people, reacquainting with old friends, and it is very much a process of rediscovering myself.
My fiance doesn’t let me stay too busy for too long writing. Yes, he knows and understands that I need to work but he insists on getting out and doing things together. Whether it is taking the munchkin to the park, going out for ice cream, or going to church on Sunday morning we try to keep it simple. We try to make the most of the time we get together. He encourages me to go to writers groups and do things that I enjoy even if he doesn’t. We share so much that it seems rare that there is something we don’t want to do together. The truth is, it is really amazing having someone that is truly supportive of my efforts and what I want to do.
You can meet writers everywhere. We are out there among the waking world. We’re at the gym, in your Sunday school class, at the restaurants and cafes you frequent, and no matter when you walk in a bookstore, you’ll likely find a writer somewhere amongst the shelves.