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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Because I Write...

I needed to write something. I’ve been having trouble sleeping and I narrate my entire life in my head constantly. As weird as it sounds, it’s me and I have to learn to accept me for who I am. I know it can be a bit confusing. I can be a bit confusing. If you remember that I will always be writing a story in my mind and I’ll always be coming up with one descriptive or another for everything and everyone I see, you’ll figure out more about me. Maybe I need to remember that from time to time.

I’m misunderstood and I can accept that. It’s not like I came around to this conclusion casually but it’s also not like it was some kind of earth shattering epiphany, either. I simply realized it one day, accepted it and moved on. I know it should seem more glamorous than what it is and if you’re let down or disappointed by it, I’m sorry. When I started writing I thought it would be more glamorous than the life I live now. Score one for reality, I guess.

You see, the reality is that my professional life is an endless cycle of creative energy punctuated by times when I’ve let out all that creative energy and simply can’t get a handle on myself until such time as a new idea comes into my head. It’s a little nuts but then again, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I don’t ever make a novel just become. That’s not what writing is about. My life is not a round of fast cars, fat bank accounts, designer clothes, movie deals and New York Times bestsellers. It’s not that I don’t wish that kind of thing would happen sometimes but my lot in life is what it is and damned if sometimes I don’t think I drew the short straw.

I talk to God about it a lot and sometimes He answers and sometimes He doesn’t. When He does answer, it’s invariably something along the lines of, “Rachel, just do what you do best.” All the time He’s got laughter in His voice and that can get irritating from time to time. It’s not like I would’ve chosen to be a writer. When I was sixteen and thought about it that was because I didn’t need to go to college to succeed in writing and because I thought it was so very different than it is. I thought in my youth and naivety that I could write a novel and that I’d become the next overnight sensation. I’d be discovered and never have to worry about money again and that ultimately, I would earn the respect of my peers with remarkably little effort. Boy was I wrong.

Truth be told, most of the finest examples of literature throughout history have come from the minds of people who are clinically depressed, mentally imbalanced, alcohol or substance abusers or tormented by past mistakes and regrets and sometimes, they’re a bizarre combination of more than one of the above. And yet, when you read what they’ve written, it’s so very inspiring because they have a way of taking their deepest pain and most profound thoughts and put them onto paper in a way that draws you in and won’t let you go. It’s not always that you choose to read that next page; it’s that you have to. It’s not like you’re not aware of the idea that you have to get up and go on about your day when you look at the clock and realize it’s three in the morning and you have to get ready to work in the next few hours but it’s not something you can bring yourself to sacrifice. You just can’t close that book until you’ve read through all of it or until you can’t hold your eyes open, one or the other.

If I had the choice between writing and getting a “real job” without the adventure or the element of chaos, I’d still choose writing. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already adjusted to life as a writer and honestly couldn’t see myself any other way or perhaps it’s because I’m just a glutton for punishment and I’m too stubborn to be willing to pursue any less than my dreams. Either way doesn’t sound any better and I know this because I just reread what I wrote.

I am an Independent Author. I haven’t gone the traditionally published route because I got several rejection letters but I also knew that what I had to say and the things I’ve written have merit. I have a voice. I have an opinion and I have talent and I simply can’t let someone else determine whether or not I should follow a specific course based on their bottom line. Sometimes, I truly feel sorry for Traditionally Published Authors and I have good and sound reasons.
As an Independently Published Author, I have no contractual obligations to anyone and I don’t change what I’ve written based on the opinion of a publisher or agent. I don’t have to make it “salable” for someone else. I stay true to who I am. I also don’t have to worry about passing my heart and soul (I’m referring to my manuscripts here) off to someone else to change and chop up as they see fit to fall in with their market perspective. My works are my own and I am the one who accepts accountability for all content therein.

It’s true that I pay through the nose for an editor (Felicia, you are the bomb) but she doesn’t try to change what I’ve written. She keeps the premise and story intact while she just fixes the mistakes I’ve made in the writing. My cover artist (Athanasios, I still get effusive compliments) gives me what I want and I pay well for it, but I also get to see exactly what I envisioned when he’s done. For “Sins of the Father” he overcame his doubts and gave me exactly what I asked for. I couldn’t have been happier.

I don’t labor under deadlines and I don’t have a contract which means that I don’t ever have to worry about attorneys or watching what I say. I read and review what books I choose and I don’t worry about what is and isn’t “mass market friendly.” Has anyone actually taken an honest look at the reviews for Traditionally Published Authors (and yes, I do intend the respect associated with the capitalization) and given them critical thought? Is it just me or does anyone else notice that they’ve been pigeon-holed and their works slowly become cookie cutter? In my opinion, it begs the question, do they see their career go down in a blaze of glory or do they see themselves slipping into anonymity and do they realize that the publishing industry and their agents work for them and not the other way around?

It’s not always that simple, either. When I’m writing, I change as a person. I become focused and introspective. I forget details about my daily life because I’m so lost in what I’m putting onto paper. I get cranky with my husband and kids and resent every intrusion or question. It honestly seems like sometimes the kids store up every single question they have until the moment I start to write and then it all comes out of them in a great torrent of unsatisfied curiosity. I don’t want to do anything but write. I deal with a lot of pain in my shoulders and neck and I’ll wait until the pain gets to the point that I can barely move before I’ll take a break from what I’m currently writing. I have an endless round of new ideas go through my head at breakneck pace and I lose most of them but I rationalize it by saying that if I don’t remember it so well, it wasn’t what I wanted to write anyway.

All I can think about when I’m writing is writing and most of what I think about when I’m not writing is writing. I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said that I narrate my entire life in my head. All of it is one great big composition. I’ll even complete it with chapter headings. No joke. I forget to shower and brush my teeth. I get rude with people and then have to seek them later to apologize because I really didn’t mean to snap at them, they just got in the way and they were collateral damage for lack of better phrasing. I’m constantly editing other people’s words and phrases in my head and spell checking without even thinking about it. I’ll correct people when I have no business correcting them and I won’t think about it until later. I become remarkably insensitive and tend to speak my mind without thinking about it but when I’m writing, someone else’s hurt feelings are purely incidental.

It’s not fair to other people and I’m not a nice person when I lose myself in a story but I sure can try to teach people who live with a writer a little bit of what it’s about.

Try not to take it personally when they’re lost in the creative process and take it out on you. It really isn’t your fault and they will remember that soon enough. They’ll go over every little detail they can remember in their head and they will come to you with an honest apology because they’ll realize that it wasn’t your fault they just happened to be swept along in the moment. Their changes in mood will be mercurial in nature. They’ll be angry and despondent for no particular reason that you can think of until they’re done writing. Then they’ll come out of their shell and be more amiable when they’ve finished that sentence, chapter or novel and they can lay that idea to rest. They will realize that you didn’t mean to say the wrong thing (which is anything) at the wrong time and that you were asking a simple question. There was no reason to fly off the handle like they did.

Things will calm down for a little bit and then, when they get restless, you’ll go through the whole cycle over again because that’s who they are and they can’t change it. You might as well get used to it because they are who they are and they’ll understand when you’ve got ideas floating in your head that you can’t get rid of. They’ll help you follow them to their inevitable conclusion because they can relate to the absolute need to get it out. It is in that moment that you’ll have empathetic understanding from them more than any other time.

This seems like an exhaustively long way to say, “Just be patient with them,” but it’s the only thing I can say. I value my husband because he doesn’t tear me up for being who I am. He’s patient with me. When all I can think about is writing, he’s right there with me and he accepts it for what it is. It’s just me being me and this, too, shall pass.

Am I trying to sway people one way or the other when it comes to writing? No. Do what you love and what you feel is right. Follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole until you hit a dead end and then push through it. In reading this, a person could rightfully assume that I’m trying to talk people out of being a writer but that’s not the case. You had the courage to break out of the mold. Finish what you started. Take it and run because there’s no one else who can or should take up your gauntlet for you. You took a sip from that cup and now you must drink the rest. You took the first step down that path and now you’ll have no choice but to walk the rest of the way. Your mind and your heart will not accept any less. I know because I walk that path and I do so because I have no other alternative. I’m not happy with who I am when I try to lay down the writing. I’m sickened when I think of giving up because I joke about it and say that I like sleep and without writing I don’t sleep but the truth is that I am because I write. When I don’t write, I am not.

In retrospect, would I have chosen this path for myself as a young woman or a child? No. Did my creative brain simply break out one day in a way that I would never be able to silence? Yes. Then again, in reading over my own work here, I have to say that perhaps, just perhaps I should count my blessings.