24 June 2010

Five Essentials for the Slightly Neurotic, Sometimes Obsessive, But Almost Always Interesting Writer

Mood: Is it Friday yet (that about sums it up this week)

On Tv: Nothing (I swear, occasionally I do turn it off!)

I recently reconnected with a high school classmate through Facebook and she asked me what she would need to be a writer - how she would go about starting the process. My first thought was: "why is she asking me?" Obviously, with one (truly awful) completed manuscript and several unfinished (but probably equally awful) manuscripts to my name, I'm hardly an expert on the subject.

But, in the name of old PTHS spirit I gave her question some thought. Of course, there were the obvious things: proper tools (pens, pencils, computer, etc.), connecting with a community of supportive writers (like the #amwriting and #amwritingparty crew over on Twitter) and a good story idea with an excellent hook (duh).

Then, I thought deeper. What is it, aside from the obvious, that I really need as a writer?

Rhonda's Five Essentials for the Slightly Neurotic, Sometimes Obsessive, But Almost Always Interesting Writer

1. You will need a vice. I don't care what it is but it needs to be bad for you (although, ideally it won't kill you) and it needs to be something easily accessible.

For many writers this takes the form of a beverage of some sort. Coffee, wine (although the raging alcoholic writer is so 1920s so be careful here) and Diet Coke are some favorites but anything will do really, except water. Water is not a vice - it is a vile liquid that nutritionists and doctors insist we drink for our health (and to keep living, blah, blah, blah).

For other writers, like me, this takes the form of food. Now, I'm not talking about bean sprouts and celery sticks here. I'm talking real writing stress food full of everything that Dr. Oz tells you not to eat. Chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, etc. are all winners in this category.

2. You will need distractions. Trust me. There will be times when you sit down at the computer and the blank page and flashing cursor are mercilessly mocking you. Are you just going to sit there and take that? No. You have better things to do than just stare at that flashing little bastard!
I personally recommend Facebook (hello? Cyber stalking your friends and family, playing endless rounds of mindless games all without leaving the comfort of your computer - what could be better?) , Twitter (for when Facebook is too boring) and a blog (even though I'm possibly the world's most inconsistent blogger). I've also been told that dogs and cats serve this need quite nicely as well - I cannot attest to this personally as our apartment managers are big meanies and won't let us have any pets! (and yes I'm pouting!)

3.) You will need a supportive spouse or significant other who will understand that sometimes the world you're living in isn't, well, exactly real. Therefore, they should be able to jump easily between discussing  grocery shopping and the best dagger to kill an evil werewolf without missing a step and should be at ease spending dinner discussing the adventures of your main character (brownie points if they refrain from reminding you that your main character isn't a real person - because your main character totally doesn't know that he/she isn't real and you don't want to hurt his/her feelings).

4.) You will need an understanding employer. Ideally writing would be done around the writer's "real" life but this doesn't always happen. Sometimes you'll find yourself madly writing at 3:00 am because you're on a roll (which leads to the occasional 'falling asleep at your desk' incident the next day) and sometimes you'll be so blocked that the words won't come - until 2:00 pm on some random Thursday afternoon (when you'll use up your entire supply of post-it notes trying to capture the brilliance that is just pouring from your artiste type brain).

5.) You will need become comfortable with the fact that some of the things you're going to do as a writer? Are going to make you look downright weird. You may find yourself balancing a dagger in your hand, feeling the weight of it, trying to memorize the texture and feel of the metal and then asking your husband if he thinks it's both big enough to kill someone and small enough to be concealed (don't be surprised when the old lady at the booth next to you suddenly turns and runs in the opposite direction). Or, you may find yourself staring unashamedly at a handsome young man in the food court because he looks exactly like you envision your main character to look (and you will even toy with the idea of asking to take his picture - hopefully someone will stop you before the poor kid calls mall security).

*Ahem* Not that these things have happened to me personally *looks around innocently*.

Luckily, society has long accepted the stereotype of the eccentric artist so just have someone follow you around giving everyone in your path a sympathetic look and a whispered "she's a writer" as an explanation for your obvious insanity.

There it is. The top things that I think every aspiring writer should know about what they need to survive this crazy endeavour we call writing.

So, what is on your absolutely essential list?



  1. When you run into real-life versions of your characters, your STALK them, baby. Especially when one miraculously shows up at your neighborhood train station. Does it get any better than sneaking around like a spy to overhear character doppelganger's conversations and watch how he moves? No, my friends, it does not.

  2. Laurel: Absofreakinglutely you STALK them!! :) Bonus points if you are humming the Mission Impossible theme song as you dart around behind him. :)

  3. Hahahaha! That's great. And so true! And how I wish I would run into someone that looked like my MC!! I saw a lifeguard recently that looked sort of like a secondary character, but that's the closest I've really gotten. I hope you did get his picture. I would've taken it on the sly ;)

  4. Carol - I assure that when it happens it's SO weird. I totally couldn't stop staring at this poor kid (even *I* was starting to creep myself out). I would have taken his picture but I had visions of the mall cops swarming around me and arresting me for being a creepy middle aged stalker lady - and I really didn't have good mugshot hair that day.

  5. OMG. Best list ever. Thanks for this!

  6. Did you know your email is not connected to your blogger account? It's no big deal, but I realized that my replies to comments you leave on my blog are getting sent into the ether. Ha! So, yeah, pretty much every reply I've ever sent you I don't think you ever got. Well then.

    But I wanted to say thanks for commenting. And thanks for being so supportive. You better believe you'll have a huge obsessive fan in me.

  7. @Carol: Uh...*looks around stupidly*...No, I didn't know they weren't connected...or that they could be connected? Sheesh. What a dork!

    So, uh, let's say someone wanted to connect their e-mail account to their blogger account...that's probably pretty easy for the average idiot to figure out, right?

    *slams head on desk*

  8. Hm, well, possibly. I'm sure if you go into your blogger settings, it should have somewhere in there where you have to add your email and where you have to make it available, maybe? Not sure. I'll take a look. I'm not the most techno aware, see. All I know is that when someone comments on my blog, it hits my email inbox, and I reply by hitting reply. If it doesn't have an email linked (and I only just now realize this) it will give me something like noreply@blogger.com or something like that. Which, ok, that email address should have given me a clue something was up.

  9. Okay, I might have managed to figure it out. Possibly. I had my e-mail listed but hadn't shared it - now it shows up on my profile page so maybe that's got it fixed?

    If that doesn't do it I suppose all that's left is dancing naked at the next full moon in hopes of appeasing the blogger gods because I *need* my replies. They're my preccciiioooouuuuss. :)

  10. Doh!

    P.S. I totally didn't realize that I could actually just reply via the e-mail notification. I'd see the e-mail notifying me that I had a comment - then do the little "I got a comment" happy dance (yes, I realize I'm pathetic) and then I'd run off to my blog to post a reply.

    Know what this means!?! Maybe I'm NOT the red headed step child of the internet blogging world. Maybe I'm just the slightly special kid who sits in the back of the class eating paste and never noticing people are actually talking to her.

  11. Hahahaha! Ok, that's funny, but oh, I got a little teary. Poor Rhonda. Especially because I tried to reply via email and it still didn't work. Maybe there's like a lag effect. Maybe I'll try replying again tomorrow. Or like on a new post?

  12. Nooooo!! I thought I had it fixed. Especially since I found that I can now "reply" to the e-mail notification telling me that I've left a message on here (talking to myself via e-mail replying to a message I left on my own blog --I'm guessing a therapist would LOVE to get his billing department all over my mental issues).

    However, my blog does seem to be a bit cranky tonight as it's not counting our replies and having issues processing updates. Hmmm...I'm going to be putting up a new post tomorrow, maybe that will be better. *fingers crossed*

  13. Okay, I promise, I'm taking my tired brain to bed. Obviously it wouldn't be a post on MY blog but another response on yours that would be the test.

    I swear I had another brain cell wandering around here somewhere - maybe I can introduce it to the other one I've got and together they can form some sort of union that can produce a coherent thought pattern?

    *dreams big*

  14. Hey Snarkarella! Just dropping by to let you know there's an award for you over on my blog. :)


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