Because it is Houseguest Season, we had another mate in over the weekend. Our friend Ali left the Big City to come out to the middle of nowhere that we live in to see Krys, John, and I. Ali and Krys have known each other for ages, and I met her when we were all junior counselors at, of all fucking things, a church camp in our teenage years.*
Somewhere in between painting our nails, drinking beer, and playing endless games of Settlers of Catan, we got to talking about writing. Ali has also been writing for a long time and misses having other people to talk about it with, so it was nice to get a chance to air some of the more insane parts out before going back to dealing with normal folks.
This is a complaint I’ve heard a lot. Writers are often loners at the best of times, but I will put forth a theory here: we all, at some time or another, need someone to talk to about writing. Otherwise, we go insane. And that shit ain’t pretty.
I think it’s just part of the deal, really. We spend a lot of time inside our own heads. And that’s great most of the time. I know I’m rarely bored; there’s always somewhere else I can go, even at the doctor’s office. As Krys says, we have universes in our heads. That’s a great feeling.
Most of the time. But every now and then, it feels less like god-like power and more like you have toys in the attic. Creepy toys, with the weird bulging eyes and the sharp edges and the lead-based paint.** Other people give you funny looks when you check out three books on poisons from the library. Or when you mumble dialogue to yourself. Or, hell, when you just plain space out in the middle of speaking. They keep talking, the silly bastards. Can they not see that you’ve just thought of something? Christ.
That’s why we need other writers: we need people to listen to the crazy shit that comes out of our mouths and not run away screaming. Or not call the white coats. And we need someone who understands what the hell we’re bitching about when it goes poorly. This stuff, for the most part, comes from other writers.
Also, sometimes they know shit. Like what websites post submission listings, or which coffee shops allow you to nurse single cup while you use their wi-fi and write for seven hours. Or, if they’ve been doing their own esoteric research, what colour cyanide poisoning turns people.***
There are other writers out there, somewhere. Possibly in a chemistry lab, looking through the cabinets for supplies. Connecting with them can save your sanity, or at least make your madness much more interesting. So check the writer’s groups and the online forums and the workshops, and find them. You can help each other.
And if they happen to know where the cyanide is, so much the better.
*None of us caught fire, before you ask. Not even once.
**In other words, every toy I had as a child. I even had Lawn Darts, the old ones with the points. I like to think of the time I spent dodging razor sharp death from above as training for adulthood.
***Pinkish, for the record.