It's a pretty easy sell, being a writer. You get to make stuff up for fun (and for a living) You get tasked with an overactive imagination and a keen insight into the workings of the human mind. You can create conversations out of the ether and breathe life into people that never existed. Got an ancient civilization you want to create? BAM. Done. Like Dragons? BAM. Done. Vampires? Ghosts? Gods? BAM. Done, done and done.
This creativity comes at a cost. Like erosion, the cost itself is so small it escapes casual notice. You have to write. That's it. That is the cost. It looks like it's not too much to ask, but what often gets left off is the (All the time) part. Writers have no OFF switch. We are always on. We are always creating. Always writing. Always revising what we wrote. Always asking others to read what we wrote to validate our time. It never ends. It is like being an athlete. They train days, weeks, months, years for one minute to display their prowess. They get that one minute and when it's done...they begin training for the next one. It doesn't end for them until their bodies lie wrecked and broken, and even then, it's impossible for them to fully accept when it's over. From the edge of their death beds, give an athlete one final request, and it won't be "Spend more time with my family." If they are truly honest with themselves, it will be "Give me one more play, coach."
The writer has no body to break. His muscle is his mind. And OH what a fragile yet powerful muscle it is. With his mind, a writer can become God, creating a world from a grain of sand. With his mind, a writer crafts humanity in its darkest hours and most shining moments. He is unshackled and uninhibited save only for the limits he puts on himself.
Writers have the ability to peer into the dark cracks and recesses where normal people fear to look. Writers insist. It is this curiosity that dooms them. Nietzsche was speaking from experience. Every second you spend staring at the beast, the beast is also staring at you. Spend too much time wallowing with druggies, pimps and criminals, and your mind becomes warped. Twisted. But that is the coin our quest for realism demands. If you do indeed write what you know, you damn well better know all of it. No one wants to see a half hearted pimp. The world has no time for a timid killer. If you want to waste your time, try writing about something you haven't any interest in. The reader will be able to spot that from a mile away.
What does this coin cost the writer in real terms? What is the effect of this mental erosion? Well, first thing, the analogy of erosion is incomplete. It is actually reverse erosion. A writer's mind isn't worn down by a gradual trickle through friction...it is built up. Like the Mississippi Delta. The constant flow of ideas and concepts and dialogue that travel through a writer's mind all leave tracks and deposits. Writers remember almost every word they ever write. They may not recall the "And's" and the "The's: but they understand the core that was in their minds that their sometimes limited arsenal of words allowed them to craft. I still recall the story I showed Clarice Douglas and Carolyn Sellars as a Freshman at Sunset High School that was a 7 or 8 page rip off of the Maltese Falcon. I spent hours on this tale and provided it to them to read at lunch. The girls to my eternal gratitude read it cover to cover and pronounced it great. It was my first review, and though the story itself was horrible in remembrance, I would wager the girls recall it much differently than I do. But it stayed with me. The lessons I learned writing it all applied to the next story I wrote. The lessons from that one, so on and so forth to today...where I am applying the hundreds (maybe thousands) of lessons each writing has imparted upon me to craft this. But do I consider myself done?
If I were a cake...it would be easy to tell. A steak? A little more tricky depending on your personal taste. Medium? Rare? Well? But a writer is done in infinite degree. There is no final measure of doneness for us. Even were we allowed immortality, the reverse erosion of all those lessons would always find a shore to settle upon. This journey is truly never ending. That...RIGHT THERE...is what makes being a writer fun. (That and catching your own typos.)
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