My Lack of Pixie Dust
Some writers like to pretend that words come from some magical place inside of them, and when a muse hits them, these wonderful words splatter all over the page and make novels like pixie dust makes flight. I say “pretend” because this has never happened for me, but I could be wrong and other writers may actually spew words in a flurry of rainbows and starlight.
I, however, am not one of those writers. I love writing, more than I love about 99% of things on Earth. But I also really love my dog (he falls into the 1% of things that I truly love), and there are times that he does things that make me curse not only his existence but my own, since I’m the one that brought him into my life.
Writing is a lot like that. But when I made a decision that I wanted writing to be my career and that I wanted to treat it like a career, I moved the box labeled “Writing” to a different part of my brain.
That’s important, or at least it was to me. For most of my life, “Writing” had lived in the part of my brain that harbored such things as unicorns, Peter Pan, and wedding pictures of me and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. It’s the part of the brain that I labeled “Happy Fun Time” and most other people would probably categorize as “Fantasy.”
That meant that I wrote when I felt like it. When I was consumed by some kind of fantasy that I wanted to get out on paper. I don’t like the word “fantasy” in this context very much, because to me, when you say “I was fantasizing” about anything, it immediately sounds dirty. So let me assure you that when I say was fantasizing about things, most of the time it is lame and completely nonsexual.
I have a thing called “pressured speech.” I wasn’t really “diagnosed” with it, because it’s not a condition so much as a symptom of one. I do have real conditions, though. Like “major depressive disorder.” And “anxiety disorder” coupled with “social anxiety.” I may also be “bipolar” but the mania and the depressive episodes seem to have leveled out, so who the hell knows anymore? Not me, that’s fore sure.
Anyway, pressured speech (as defined by Wikipedia) is a tendency to speak rapidly and frenziedly, as if motivated by an urgency not apparent to the listener. That means that I often talk very, very quickly, and I can also be hard to understand. (Both my mom and Eric say I’ve gotten much better about this in recent years. My mom thinks that doing interviews has it made it a lot better, because I learned to speak more slowly and deliberately).
If I had to define myself by one single quality, it would be pressured speech. I have always been filled with someone unknown, unreasonable urgency to get ideas out. When I speak, when I write, it all comes from the same manic, insistent place inside of me.
But I’d been told most of my life that that’s the way it is. When you hear of great writers, they’re always tormented by demons and write when the muse hits. So I thought, this is the way it is. My life will constantly be filled by manic highs, low lows, and I can only write when I feel like it. You cannot control the muse!
When I made one simple realization – that I could control the way I wrote, that I was in charge of the muse and not the other way around – everything in my life changed. I moved the “Writing” box to a different part of my brain, and then I began shuffling around all the boxes. I realized I’d just left them where I found them and had never bothered to organize the clutter of my mind (and there is a lot of clutter. There’s nothing I love more than useless facts and trivia).
I have at times suffered debilitating depression that had nothing to do with anything going on in my life. (This right here is the single most accurate description of depression I’ve ever read in my entire life.) It’s not a matter of choosing to be sad over happy, although I do think that is a small part of it.
But for me, I make choices every day that have kept my mood relatively stable for the past five years, and I’ve been able to write more often with more follow-through than ever before. I hardly ever start projects I don’t finish anymore. I make deadlines, and with few exceptions, I keep them.
I still tend to write in a way that is similar to “pressured speech.” I’m in more control of it than I was before. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be a person that does things in moderation. But I am controlling my levels of excess. I may write thousands of words in a night, but I do it because I decide to, and if I have to do something tomorrow instead of writing, I don’t freak out that I’m being taken away from it. I know it’ll be there when I get back, and I know I can make myself write again when it’s time to.
So what happened when I moved the “Writing” box inside my brain? I realized that I was in control. I decide when I am going to write, and I make myself write, even if I don’t want to. There is nothing magical about writing. It is wonderful, wonderful, difficult, mind-numbing work.
I don’t know why I decided to blog about this tonight. I wrote tonight on accident. I meant to just work on the outline a bit more, and I ended up writing two chapters. That almost never happens to me. It’s usually the other way around, where I sit down to right, and just end up tweaking the outline and screwing around on the internet. (The internet is literally the cause of and solution to all my problems).
So I was just feeling good about writing and life in general. Writing does always put me in a better mood, and it’s nice when things just … work. Sometimes it’s like Sisyphus pushing the same boulder up the hill every day, and other days it just flows.
But no matter what, it’s always work, it’s always a choice, and nobody ever sprinkles fairy dust on my laptop.