Writing, as we so painfully know, is a solitary craft. Most of our time as writers is spent hunched over our desks, drooling, literally, over our own imaginary worlds, fingers sliding over perpetually slimy keys as you curse, cry and w
hine. And because we are sick, because we have the word sickness, it’s easy to forget to take our medicine. After all, we’re in a writing induced haze, only tethered to reality by the occasional mewing of the cat we forgot to feed and the cursory glance of our significant other when we realize we forgot to brush our teeth because we were totally feeling that scene this morning. And ew, gross.
Having word sickness without taking medicine is dangerous. For instance, if I am doing a mindless activity, such as painting, a type of physical activity, showering, driving, talking to friends, cleaning, cutting tile, buying groceries, slicing open bags of cheese with a shard of glass… I can easily spend that time working on my novel in my head. His eyes were shit brown… no, they’re hazel. Yeah, okay. Blood doesn’t splatter that way, does it? Add that to my ‘to Google’ list. Didn’t my dad say Glocks don’t usually have a safety? And I can get a lot of work done by doing this, by staying in my head whilst in the real world.
I will also, in the midst of un-medicated word sickness, choose activities that allow me solitary time over activities that require contact with other living, breathing humans, such as socialization, sporting events, sitting on the couch with my lovely boyfriend who has been patiently waiting for me to come out of my writing dungeon, going to the post office to mail extremely overdue items, or, occasionally, going to work.
Now, while there are undoubtably times when complete immersion in the writing process is necessary, and even necessary for certain periods of time on a weekly basis, we have to remember something.
Our job as writers is to create a new world, another life, for others to soak their spinning heads in, to soak in all the different feels. Our job is to express the human condition through strings of sentences that sound lovely, but that are also so reflective of how we feel in everyday life that we feel connected, that we feel that we’re not alone, or so that we see the same thing someone else sees but in a completely different light- a new, novel way. (PUNS!) We are to take the colors and paints of real life and, with our drool soaked fingers, smear stuff we’ve gotten from the world across the page so that we can speak to others in symbols- because that is art. Art, abstract or realistic, writing or drawing, understood in one way or many, is always, if you look deep enough, thoughtfully enough or strangely enough, a reflection of real life.
But similar to the idea of you can’t write books unless you read books, you simply can’t write real stories unless you live real life.
Life. That is your medicine.
And oh, don’t tell me, writing is my life, Evelyn (as you groan and roll your head in exaggerated torment), because if you are a writer, of course writing is your life. There is an unexplainable connection to writing that writers have and, even with our talents and word sickness, can have trouble describing accurately. And that’s okay. But if your goal is to reflect humanity, to reveal truth, to describe in ways so that others may feel, feel the things like the indecisive twist in your chest when you steeled back tears on your deck at sunset last autumn or the sensation of cool, smooth skin through warm blankets on a chilly Sunday morning or the feeling of the shattering inside your mind when someone breaks the stereotype you ruminated on with guilt just moments before, then you’ve got to get out there and live. If you want to capture those moments, those feelings, those epiphanies, treasures, worlds within worlds, those illusions- then you have to get eyeballs deep in the messy slop of the real world. Really in there. No holds barred. Teeth, heart and fingernails.
And that means you have to live life.
It’s so cliched, but it’s worth saying, especially when it’s part of our job to reflect life, fiction or otherwise.
It means thinking about your novel on the way to work and then finding out what really is going on when your co-worker gives you the third hesitant smile that week.
It means taking up your friends offer to go apple picking and having a great conversation at the beer garden, people watching, laughing, and eating too many apple cider donuts.
It means closing your hands around a tiny pair of hands and swinging them through the streets of Boston until your arms get tired and you feel the ache in your shoulders and the see the glow on their face.
It means feeling nervous walking out of a store buying nothing, stumbling over the sidewalk coming back from getting the mail in oversized slippers so big you have to keep your toes scrunched and it trying the new sugar cookie coffee flavor even though you think it might be too sweet because that is real life guts. The meat and potatoes, skin and bones, roses and chocolate.
It means focusing on being in the moment, and living while you’re alive.
Because I promise. If you do this, you’ll find, when you return to your keyboard after cleaning off last sessions drool, that you remember everything with more clarity. The words won’t seem forced or awkward because you are pulling them out slowly. You will be able to put yourself back in the moment where you felt everything so vividly. You didn’t have to take notes while on the park bench, or remember that thing!, or describe the backstory of the girl in the green parka while you were there. It will all come back to you with gusto and the feelings that came along with it and your writing will spark with real life. And that flow, that liquid river of life, lived fully, lived presently, is what will give your novel a heartbeat- one that will echo in the reader and make them feel the breeze on a freshly wet-kissed nose and understand the Barbie-doll innocence of the brown-eyed child in a ripped, dirty green parka. They’ll have your book cracked open as they sit, knees to chest on the couch, while their faces will shift and change with emotion. They’ll understand. They have felt that way, too. In real life.
That’s why we read. To get that feeling. And if you live life, you’ll be able to write life. Convincingly.
And your medicine, my friends who share the word sickness we call being writers, is real life.
Lucky for you, it’s Friday. (Sorry part-timers.) You’ve got this afternoon and Saturday and Sunday to get out there and do something life-y. Something real life-y. Block out time for writing and then block out time for life.
Here I am, a PhD in nothing but how to describe the throaty kind of whine which one makes over an empty wine bottle, telling you to take the medicine. Life the life. Feel the beating hearts of others. Get in there. Really get in there. Blood, sinew and all. It’s gross, I’d assume. But do it, and then write about it so I know. Please. Please, I need it for research reasons. Pleeeeeaasse.
Seriously, take your medicine. I’m tired of bringing a mop to my Writer’s Anonymous meetings. The drool is getting unbearable.
And just because I need to say it-
I’m so proud of you.
We may not know each other yet, whoever you are, but you’re a writer just like me, and I’m here for you. Live and write! It’s what we are on this earth to do.
LIFE it up!
I love you,