How a writer knows they’re a writer

Ever wonder how a story is conceived? That book you’re reading wasn’t made in a day.  But you knew that already. What you may not know are the processes involved in hammering out a plot, characters, settings and the unique voice each character must sustain, their relationships with one another and growth throughout the book. None of that comes easily unless you somehow manage to tap into the Ether and allow the characters to speak for themselves and the story to work itself out. I’ve done that. It often requires a heavy hand where the editing is concerned, but it can work.
What the reader never sees are the author’s long hours spent in isolation in order to build their books. The self-doubt, the aching neck and shoulders. The carpel tunnel, the tired eyes, the eureka moments in the middle of an airport jotting down an idea on your forearm or napkin before it slips away, forever.

There is angst in the processes. There is anxiety in over-thinking your book. There are moments when you feel manic over it’s impending success and despair when you realize you’re nobody, doing nothing of worth.  An author reads and rereads their book so many times they’ll know it by heart before an editor’s eyes fall on it. Then the process begins again, fixing all the things thirty rereads couldn’t capture. It’s a love hate relationship with a book that exceeds 80,000 words. But it is the love that keeps us coming back. The dharma – our life’s purpose. Whether read by millions or just a few, writing feeds an author’s soul. It’s non-negotiable. If we didn’t write we would shrivel up and die. There would be no purpose to life and so no reason to live.

A writer knows they’re an author when they’re writing. Background noise disappears, they are focused on their present moment: fingertips punching against the keys, a mind fixated on the story, character or scene they’re writing. There is no outside world. Time is lost. They exist in the book. In the character. In the scene. I’ve lost it on people who have broken my concentration in moments like these. To be pulled from the story as you write it is akin to being birthed into a cold, wet world, having your bottom slapped and you screaming to be put back into the warm, loving womb of your story. To come out of a writing coma like that is jarring.  When writing in a stream-of-consciousness style the effect is made all the worse as that stream may never be revisited once the author is pulled like a fish on a hook from it’s current.

How’s that for a few extreme analogies? You probably didn’t want to know all that detail, did you? Just know that author’s live between worlds: That which we share with you, and that of the evolving story running through scenes in our heads. When we can capture a scene, wherever we are, we need to expel it. Whether that scene is part of an ongoing writing project or fodder for another, it is with a sense of immediacy in which we feel we must jot it down.  Own that shit.

Anyways, that’s what it’s like to write a book. From my perspective.  How about you?

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