Today’s post is meant to celebrate the uniqueness of creative writing as a pastime and a calling. I don’t mean to imply that writing stories is better than doing other things; just that it has its own place and that it’s as worthy a calling as anything else.
Writing can do a lot of awesome things for us. Perhaps there are other hobbies or jobs that you could apply one or two these observations to, but probably not all of them. Some of these I might have mentioned before, but today, specifically, I wanted to gather them in one place under a special heading:
THINGS ONLY A WRITER CAN UNDERSTAND
1. That awful feeling when you realize you hate one of your characters doing a certain thing, or acting a certain way, because it’s something you hate about yourself.
I could list so many negative characters of my characters and how I exhibit them, if hopefully to a lesser extent.
- Villain Zalski Forzythe’s propensity to get carried away in the heat of the moment, and to try to control things he simply can’t control.
- Kidnapper Dorane Polve’s inability to recognize his strengths and potential. He really focuses on just one thing he’s good at, one talent he has, and feels he is worthless otherwise. That honestly used to be me. That’s one reason walking away from academia was such a HUGE accomplishment for me and has led to so much personal growth. I felt I was “book smart” but had no other talents and wasn’t good for anything else. (Simply NOT TRUE!)
- Kansten Cason’s tendency to compare herself to others and feel she doesn’t measure up. I’ve made great strides here recently!
2. That moment when you realize your characters’ crises and struggles are YOUR OWN, just “renamed” to “protect the innocent.”
Namely, to protect yourself. Because writing fiction is SCARY. It means opening up your soul, and most of us have to take precautions and protections when we do that. So we reshape and alter and exaggerate and transform things. For instance: maybe feelings of frustration and fruitlessness and hopelessness at work turn into a character feeling that same way about a completely different job, or maybe about infertility issues, or maybe about a dead-end relationship. But it’s all still therapy for confronting those emotions, whatever the real cause.
3. The temptation to get revenge via fictionalized versions of people who mistreat you. And the satisfaction of knowing you’re the only one who really understands what you’re writing and why.
Pretty self explanatory!
4. Writing something that strikes you as “off the wall” and wondering where the heck it came from.
All I can say is, depending on HOW it’s “off the wall,” pondering where it came from–what part of you, what life experiences, what fears or concerns or desires–can honestly be beneficial. Other times, it’s best to just let things go. I mean, I don’t think J.K. Rowling has any real sympathy for or shares many things with Voldemort!
5. “Dude, that’s FUNNY. I can be funny? Who knew?”
This happens to me sometimes. I’m not particularly witty on most occasions. I am much more a deep thinker than a quick thinker. And that’s fine; when I have time to think things over, and can craft a great joke to put in the mouth of the perfect character for it…. That’s an awesome moment. It’s a reminder that I can be funny on occasion, even if I’ll never be a stand-up comic.
So, do you find that any of these things hold true for you as a writer? What would you say is one thing writing does for you, or allows you to experience, that other pastimes don’t provide?
Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”
You can also sign up to follow this blog by email at the top right of the page