Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guardian of stories

"How do you cope with the arrogance of being an author?"

This question was raised at me from Goodreads.  For a while I didn't know how to answer it and I'm still not sure I do.

Yea, we authors are a pretty arrogant breed, that's true.  Not in the sense of thinking we're "better than others", but always believing we're better than other authors.  We can't understand why our books don't sell as well as Harry Potter.  Really, not.  Especially if we have "fen", a readership that enjoys our stories and boosts our egos.

But even if nobody reads us, we'll still always be writing.  The point is, being a writer is not a calling.  It's not something we hear a little angel voice say that we should do in order to improve humanity.  No.  It's a compulsion, an addiction, an identity.  I'm a writer by birth, and I'm decidedly not alone in this.  The second I knew how to write, I was writing stories.  Before I could write, my brother and I were "living" and playing out stories, stories and more stories.  My earliest memories, from when I was three, revolve around make-believe.  Legos?  We were playing a story.  Cars?  We were playing a story (the cars had "identities", usually us and a few friends).  Mud, sticks and pebbles?  Stories!  Never even mind the dollies and teddies.  My mom used to put on some music for us (usually classical) and we created a story around it.  She also played puppet theatre for us, and my father took us left and right of him in the evenings and read us - guess what, Grimm's fairytales.  Further feeding the stories.

When I desperately wanted to do something and we couldn't afford it, as a child:  My mother encouraged me to write about it.  I had a bad experience or hated a teacher: I wrote them into a story for revenge. 

I dream them.  No, not daydreams.  Actual REM-sleep, moving picture dreams.  "Suzie" is one of them, and "The Nest";  the Solar Wind series is built on a number of dreams and the crew visit me regularly, telling me about the aspects I'm forgetting.  It's a compulsion, I can't ever not write. 

There was a time in my life when I was working in medical genetics, the work was often tedious, demanding and always severely underpaid.  I arrived home knackered, too moeg to do anything - but I lay down on my bed and put pen to paper and worked on some or other story, when I wasn't reading some novel by a favourite author.  I sourced the ideas for my stories from real life and from my observations on (what I perceive as) the psychic relations of things to each other, the astral plane etc.  Not from books I read, though they always influence one, somewhere down the line (everything you do influences you).

Being a writer is more like... being a werewolf.  When the sun goes down, you write.  When the sun comes up again, you're still writing, and if you have a day job, or children to raise, or anything like that, woe betide you, you've got to get through the day somehow.  It doesn't matter whether people eventually judge the stories down (hell, it matters, it hurts us as badly as if someone takes a swing at our kids), but we'll always be writing.  It's not something we can "give up" like people give up drinking, smoking or playing tennis. 

Because our stories depend on us.  They need us to be there, willing channels that won't shoot them down for waking us up at 3am, "go put on your computer, you've got to get this down now!"

"I'm a wree-totaller, haven't written a paragraph in three months now" - no.  It doesn't work like that.

The arrogance of being an author?  Sorry if I came across as a bit smug in other answers, it wasn't meant that way.  I certainly have nothing to be smug about, any more than a werewolf does.

"There's a moon over Bourbon Street tonight..."

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