The Insanity of a Writer (one of them anyway)

I’m in the middle of revising a book that will be out in October, drafting one due in July, and trying to sort out an outline for another book that is due in May. Oh, and yeah, there’s figuring out the day job and sorting out family life and all that. Pretty much my mind is stretching in 638 different directions like a bizarro taffy pull. But worse than that is the fact that I have to let my internal editor demon out of its cage at the same time I’m trying to be creative.

This is painful. He is a rude, unmannerly sot who craps everywhere and rolls around in it in fiendish delight.

And adding insult to injury, I have to try to be creative and critical in exactly the same moment. The revision is requiring both editing on my part–critical evaluation–and it requires the writing of new scenes and new dialog and layering some other creative bits. Do you know how hard it is to control an editorial demon once it is loose? It’s like herding cats or coralling snakes or training mosquitoes to fly loop-de-loops.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, the damned thing laughs at your efforts–the ones you use to control it, and the ones you use to write.

“That’s tripe!” “Come on, Paris Hilton could write better than that!” “Are you a complete blithering idiot? Did you learn to write at Kmart?” And then it degenerates into an accounting of all the crap you’ve ever written and that you shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard and do you even speak the language you’re writing . . . It gets pretty ugly.

Clearly writers are insane. Oh, not because we have inner demons that talk to us–and we talk back to. But because we persevere anyhow. We defy the demons and we plug away, one foot in front of the other. And then we start another book and and another story, and we pretend that we have the demons controlled and we march rapturously ahead.

If you’ve got a moment, I’d love to hear about your demon(s). Misery loves company, doncha know. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just grab this whip and chair and get back to the battle . . .

For all of those of you out there in the trenches, I hope you nail your demons to the floor with railroad spikes. I know, it won’t hold them long, but it will utterly satisfying while it lasts.

Filed under For Novelists, learning to write, writing process. You can also use to trackback.

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  1. 1. Bradley Robb

    I rearranged my home office last night and now have space above my desk just above eye level. You know, where eyes to look for story. Thanks to you, that white space will now be adorned with a sign that reads “Paris Hilton is a better writer than you.”

  2. 2. Radish

    Visualisation works for me. I let my inner cinema run, and see my hand reaching out and grabbing my inner critic by his scrawny little throat and i squeeeeeeeeze. I keep on squeezing until he STFU,… of his head pops off.

    It’s satisfyingly cathartic.

  3. 3. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Bradley: I apologize. But you have your revenge. I snorted tea through my nose reading that.

    Radish: I need to work up some visualization exercises, clearly.

  4. 4. Radish

    Frakkit. That’s supposed to be: “*or* his head pops off.”

    >- head hung in chagrin as the typos devour my alleged genius -

  5. 5. Bradley Robb

    Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here’s what I see when I look up for motivation.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/soporic/3409871947/sizes/m/

  6. 6. Seebo

    Mine stays hidden. When I get to re-write Chapter Two I just know he’s working his best havoc on the Chapter One I’ve just finished revising.

    When I finally get back to Chapter One, all the words are in the wrong places, there’s no pace, characters are flat… Yet I’d swear it seemed okay when I last left it. He just waits for me to leave each chapter, then pounces and destruction follows.

    One day I’ll catch up with him. One day…

  7. 7. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    O.M.G. Bradley. That is perfect.

    Seebo: Isn’t that case of it? Always sneaking around behind our backs? Undoing what we are doing as fast as we do it.

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Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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