Among my people

Have you ever noticed that people don’t understand you? I’m not talking about your everyday life, but your writerly life. Ours is a solitary endeavor and requires a certain amount of understanding from our loved ones to allow us the time to nurture our artistic pursuits. And as lovely as our family and friends are, they don’t really understand us – nor should they.

We’re whacked. Sometimes even I worry about me. I mean, what normal person writes scenes in the shower?

If we’re novelists, we dive into our souls to dredge out characters and plots that require lots of emotion and thought. Even nonfiction writers aren’t immune to prolonged hours alone putting verbs and nouns together in an artful manner. So at the end of a day of writing, we want to share our thoughts and frustrations.

Only, are they really listening? Can they really understand the fact that you’ve hit a wall in your book and you can’t go any further because it happens to be a pivotal scene that impacts the rest of the story? More than likely they’ll think you’ve been sniffing glue.

That’s another thing I lurve about writers conferences. I’m among my people. Everywhere I walked this past weekend at the SCWC in beautiful Newport Beach, I overheard bitsies and piecies of conversations.

Author 1: “I had to work for three weeks until my fantasy world finally sounded real.”
Author 2: (nodding sagely) I so get that. Took me a month before my Sci Fi world was real.
Thoughts of any normal person walking past: “Good holy laser blasters and unicorns…they’re freaking MADE UP…how REAL do they have to be?
If Authors 1 and 2 could read person’s mind: (shaking heads piteously) Meh, you so don’t understand.

And they don’t. And that’s ok. They’re outsiders. They’re pathetically normal. They’re to be pitied – or so I like to tell myself.

At the conference, I was paling around with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Over breakfast, I related a story about the time I was writing a particularly emotional scene in my novel Donovan’s Paradigm. I finished the scene and burst into tears, sobbing like a freaking two-year-old who lost her little pink pony. My precious hubby came running downstairs, his face stricken. “What happened? Are you ok? Omigod, how can I help?” Truly one of the nicest, dearest hunks of manmeat ever to walk the earth. But he’s NOT a writer.

“I killed Hans!” I wailed.

He reared back and just stared at me. “You’re crying because you killed off a fictional character?”

“Y-yess,” I blubbered. “You know how much I loved Hans.”

Hubby just shook his head and went back upstairs, muttering, “Good god, she seemed so normal when I married her…”

My buddy commiserated – totally understanding my sadness. “I know what you mean. I had to kill one of my characters, too, and I just wept. But I made sure I was alone.”

Now, I ask you…where on earth can writers get away with this kind of conversation and not be carefully avoided or have offers of a long hospital stay?

Conferences, people. You must do at least one in your career. Agents and editors are at your fingertips for the entire weekend , and we don’t bite…much.

This is the place where magic happens – it’s our literary Disneyland. In fact, a very dear friend is about an inch shy of obtaining an amazing agent – I’m talking super agent here. And it’s because he read her advance submission and practically wrestled her to the floor demanding the full with the intent for signing.

As for moi, I asked for two fulls that I’m very blottwaddled about.

And besides, you’re among your people. No one will think you a page shy of a full chapter for channeling one of your characters.

Really.

5 Responses to Among my people

  1. Sally Zigmond says:

    Lynn: your husband sounds exactly like mine. Bless them.

  2. Lucky us, Sally! The poor man has gotten to the point where he’s careful about when he sees me shedding tears. “Did you kill another character, or is this real life that’s upsetting you?”

    He deserves a crown and scepter.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    I get around this by hanging out with RPG people, who are just as bad about channeling their characters as we are.

  4. Webb says:

    A neurotic builds castles in the sky, a psychotic moves in, and I writer never comes out. It’s my spouse’s job to keep the front door locked.

  5. dkent says:

    We spend months to years with a character then kill him, and we’re crazy when we cry, but the reader who has spent a few evenings with him cries and that’s normal?

    If we don’t cry, the reader won’t either.

    And, God bless the ‘net and email. Those of us without local writer friends or the means to attend conferences find online friendships a sanity saver.

    I have a group of writer friends scattered from Canada to Texas, California to North Carolina. We’ve been together almost twenty years. Some are very successful, some not so, and some having left writing entirely, but we care for each other, understand the joys and frustrations of writing and the profession, and we know that each of us is genuinely happy for those with the great careers and the good news. I pity any writer without that sanity safety net.

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