Friday, January 25, 2013
Writing fiction is black magic. As an author it’s an intoxicating power to live entirely in a realm of your own creation, populated by people, places, times and situations that exist or vanish at your whim from a position of omnipotence. Being a fiction writer is being God—at least in your own mind—until you aren’t.
When the real world intrudes, suddenly your God-like status becomes servant to the mundane. Taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, paying the bills, laundry, pets, kids, significant others, bosses, car repairs. A magnum share of mediocrity hammering down on our Demi-godness. Is it any wonder so many of us practicing this dark art are viewed as eccentric, vainglorious, irrational or just plain odd?
When writers hit a ‘zone’ where the words flow effortlessly like water over a falls, dialogue filling our heads faster than our fingers can fly across the keyboard, plot lines converging and resolving in a glorious headlong rush of excitement, it is exhilarating, exhausting and completely absorbing. It is euphoric, like perfect chocolate, or sex so good you forget where you are.
When it goes away; when the voices are thrummed silent by the real world and the plots become a shoebox of notes stuffed under a bed or in the bottom of a desk drawer it is dispiriting, depressing even. Our absence from creation weighs heavily. We drift in a purgatory that seems never ending, carrying us further from the wellspring of inspiration and depositing us where we least wish to be, desperately searching for a magical reset button so that we can begin anew. Writers tell tales of gladness or sadness, of demons and deities, of extraordinary circumstances populated by ordinary people or super beings vanquishing implacable foes. It is our therapy, our muse, our obsession and our most unrelenting taskmaster. In a word, for us it is life: Life as real to us as it is unreal to those around us not tormented by our curious obsession.
A vanishingly small number of fiction writers actually make a living at the craft. Fewer still ever reach that brass ring of riches. Billions, maybe trillions, maybe more, words flow out, some of them very good that never finds an audience. Yet in the end that isn’t what really matters for most of us scribbling away in obscurity. What matters is that for a while we live among the gods, and if we somehow manage to get published we achieve a tiny sliver of immortality wherein someone, an eon after we are dust, might stumble across a timeworn volume of our work in an obscure old curiosity shop and begin to read our words. If we were good, they will find themselves inhabiting a world of our creation, a world where we were gods.