The Nine Worlds of Writers (and how to make them perfect adjacent)
I’ve been told for six months that “its gonna get busier” at work, a cringe-worthy phrase in the light of my current 45-hour work week and 45-minute one-way commute, coupled with living with a steadily declining dementia sufferer. So when my editor told me she needed my blog series by the 29th of June, I could literally feel my frontal lobe slamming into my skull. I’m already on empty. Staving off an inner toddler tantrum, I denied my anxiety, allowing only the tiniest “In a perfect world I’d have…” moment. Truth is, there are lots of “worlds” out there, none of which are perfect. It’s all in how we as writers spin them. So over the next nine weeks, I’m going to spin a few of which I am familiar:
Welcome to the nine worlds of writers!
Building a mystery
When I was young and had a head full of lyrics and time on my hands, I fancied myself an up and coming Stevie Nicks. I permed my hair, circled gracefully (not), and practiced my pout in the mirror. I spent time and energy to my detriment, developing a vague, mysterious persona that I couldn’t stick to when life got real.
And yes, life—even for the most carefully developed persona—will eventually get real. If your writer identity is without substance, when life happens, the writing won’t. When my petty little rock star chanteuse dreams crumpled, I took a long hiatus. I got married, had kids, got a degree, and then picked up a pen again. And I learned that as a writer I am better when I am real.
I still listen to Stevie when I write, but even when creating a completely fictional setting, I endeavor to bring my reader into it: to see the brilliance of the third sun as it sets on a frosty horizon, filling the skyline with pearlescent cumulous clouds. I want the reader to smell the swamp water as it laps lazily against the dugout canoe. To feel the soft ringlets brushed from a toddler’s forehead as she sleeps.
The best stories aren’t built around vagaries and personas but rather remembered in specific, tangible moments. Make it sing by making your story real. And sing it with your own beautiful voice.
It's fine to admire other writers and artists and to learn from them as you develop your own specific brand of writing, but just as no one can be you, you cannot be those you adore. And getting all caught up in the adoration will eventually leave you feeling hollow. (and if you’re not careful, you may be labeled a stalker)
While vague, mysterious personas may be romantic and keeping distance from yourself and your work seems appropriate on certain levels, its right back to what I’ve said in the last few installments: be real. Readers want you real. If you’re too ephemeral, you and your writing will not survive the test of time.