Writing: The Sane Insanity

Anyone who has ever tried to write her own memoir without any writing experience quickly discovers that it’s not easy. In fact, for most people, it’s impossible. Not everyone is a writer. In fact, most people have trouble stringing a few sentences together in a compelling way, and that is as it should be.

Becoming a good writer takes a lifetime of study and writing and rewriting and submitting and learning and suffering and sitting at the feet of masters. Most folks just don’t want to do that, because most folks are sane.

Writing is for losers

Writers are driven to learn this craft, despite the fact that it isn’t exactly “fun” and involves a lifetime of rejection. Writers have to sit in windowless rooms with their laptops while everyone else is out playing in the sun. Writers have to contemplate the deeper meaning of life while everyone else is “going with the flow.” Writers have to tape their horn-rimmed glasses back together after the cool kids shove them into lockers. Who wants that lifestyle? Not that many people. But we writers, we have our calling.

We do it because we think too much. We do it because when someone finally catches us talking to ourselves (arguing, sometimes, I’ll admit) we realize we need a socially acceptable way to record our thoughts. We do it because when something interesting happens in our lives, our brains loop over and over on exactly how we’ll tell that story to our friends later, and we can’t stop thinking about it until we tell it or write it or perform a puppet show of it or somehow communicate what the event meant to us. (Here’s a blog about how some people do that.)

Inherently, writers are philosophers. Our job is to look into peoples’ souls. Scratch that—to look into our own souls. But then, it’s pretty irresistible to conjecture what’s going on inside other people as well.

Writing is for cranks

We’re writers because when we watch badly written television shows, we stand up and shout, “That character wouldn’t do that!” For some reason, other people don’t notice the incongruities in these shows, we don’t understand why, and it drives us crazy. (The inconsistent zombie trope is one that particularly irks me)

We understand people . . . or at least think we do. We know when dialogue sounds organic and when it sounds false. If you’re lying, we can tell, because we listen intently to what you say and how you say it. (Here’s a rant about how Words Lives Matter) We think about how we would spell your voice inflections if we wrote down the things you say. When we hear people from exotic places talking, we find excuses to be around them so we can memorize their unusual turns of phrase and use them later.

Writing is for weirdos

It took me the better part of a half-century to realize not everyone thinks this way and acts this way. Until recently, it always mystified me that other people didn’t rewind their conversations in their heads until they had entirely rewritten them the way they would have gone in a play that was better-written than real life.

When people ask me why I can’t just “let go of” something, they don’t seem to understand it’s because the story hasn’t played out properly. Before acknowledging that the experience or relationship or event is over, I have to concoct an ending that will hold up in literature.

Truth is, some people just don’t care that much about words.


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