In all honesty, there are way more than three. Chuck Wendig came up with 25.
From my “serious artist” exercise, I think you know I’m not the sort of person who buys into the whole stereotype that successful artists have to be addicts or somehow broken in order to be brilliant. I don’t really believe in writer’s block nearly as much as I believe in avoidance, procrastination and fear. I believe everyone has some creativity in them, and that everyone has ways to express it.
Being a writer, though, is a special kind of crazy. Here are three ways that I honestly feel pretty nuts on a regular basis:
1. You have to believe in yourself beyond normal levels.
There’s a certain amount of ego behind sitting down and thinking “What I have to say is worth something. It should exist.” Then letting housework and social connections slide so you can bring that into existence. You have to admit that you’re writing a book, because otherwise people will wonder what you’re doing alone for all of those hours. You have to believe in yourself – and your book – enough to let other people read it, and critique it.
Then, if you’re going the traditional-publishing route, you then have to believe in the book and yourself enough to send it to every agent who represents your kind of book. You have to face rejection after rejection, and then keep going. Until someone says yes. This takes a lot of courage, and a lot of belief.
2. You have to simultaneously doubt yourself beyond normal levels.
If arrogance alone were the key to Writer-crazy, it wouldn’t be all that bad. The problem is that it is paired with an equal amount of self-doubt. Just as you have to confidently believe that your story is worth sending out into the world, you have to be able to edit it. Editing a story means questioning every syllable, and tearing apart every scene. You have to see the suckitude of your story and rise above it – push beyond it – in order to create something worthwhile.
The push for constant self-improvement is strong among writers. We are constantly reading and critiquing the work of others. We’re constantly soaking up ideas for query letters and how to hone that opening line. We live in a morass of “not quite good enough.”
3. We live inside our imaginary worlds, with our imaginary friends, laughing at our own jokes.
We are both the heroes and the villains in our stories. We make up all of the rules, we figure out how to bend and shape these worlds to our will. We kill people who live in our brains, we hold inner dialogue with various voices.
People often ask me why I never watch television. The truth of the matter is that usually, I’ve got a whole season of the next book I’m writing playing in my head. It’s sometimes hard to leave those worlds behind and actually interact with other people. It’s sometimes hard to remember that normal people don’t talk to themselves – out loud – while walking to work. (At least the crazy people leave me alone, because they figure I’m out of my meds, too.)