A Writer’s Life: I Hear Voices and I See Dead People


So far, we are all writing lighthearted posts this week. I don’t know if it’s the fall season, or the school year starting, the phase of the moon, or what, but I’m following the pack. And yes, Mom, if the pack jumped off the bridge, I’d probably jump too. Hey, there might be white-water down there! (grins)

A friend sent me some funny quotes (which came without attribution, so if you know who said it feel free to … um …. attribute. ) The following three struck me as both particularly funny and perfect for writers. I wanted to share with you, where my brain went with the lines, and why writers are special. (Yes, I know that word has all sorts of connotations, and yes, they likely all apply.)

Quote #1.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas! 
Oh yeah! The voices in my head… There are sooo many of them. They each have their own accent, history, back-story and mental patter. And just because I have them doesn’t mean I’m insane or mentally deficient or need medication or have been self medicating with drugs or alcohol. Nor do I see dead people. Lately. Of course, it doesn’t mean any of that isn’t true either!

In school I was the weird kid because I’d come to, standing in the middle of the playground, after an intense action scene or an equally intense and moving conversation between two characters—in my head—and the kids would all be staring at me. A seizure? Possession by demons with hopes to take over the playground and wreck  havoc? Maybe. Could be. But a great story—in my head—for sure. The voices are real people to me. I like them. Or hate them and want them to die. Slowly and thoroughly. Hoisted on their own flaming, very sharp petards. Hey! I’m a writer! I can’t turn it off!

At odd moments, I’ll discover the hubby staring at me. I’ll realize that he’s been staring at me for a while. A long while. And he has this tender look and little smile on his face. “What?” I say.

“Where are you?” says he. “Who is in your head right now?”

Yeah, he figures I’m off somewhere with one of my characters doing something…weird. But he loves me (for reasons I’ll never understand) and so he finds the moments of dislocation charming. Good thing, yes?

Today, the voices in my head are in the midst of a scene between Jane Yellowrock and some SAR (search and rescue) dogs. What will the dogs think about a human female who also smells of mountain lion? I don’t know yet. I have the scene on hold. But it’s calling to me. Dang noisy voices!

Quote #2
Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever. 
One of the AKA’s cousins has a husband who read one of her first books. And he asked (totally seriously, ya’ll), “When did you meet these people? Why did they tell you this story?” Seriously.

I thought he was joking. When I found out he was not joking, I made the mistake of trying to explain what fiction is instead of walking away. His brain is weird, wired differently from mine. He has no imagination whatsoever. Is he brain damaged or am I? Would I rather have no imagination *at all,* or hear voices and see invisible people?

I’d rather have imagination. Even if unimaginative people think I’m weird.

Tell me. What’s wrong with hearing voices? Well, as long as they don’t tell me to kill *real* people or set fire to the RV or set a bomb off in the mall or actually take a Class V rapid and kill myself. And what’s wrong with seeing invisible people? They really are here, in the room with me, I tell you! You don’t see them? One’s an earth witch with a strong propensity for feeling death, and one’s a skinwalker. J Oh. And watch out. Don’t step on that bloodhound there.

Hey, I’m never bored. All I need to entertain myself is a pen and a pad of paper. Or, preferably, a PC. When the end of the world comes, if I’m still here, I’ll be too busy with the scene in my head to notice. While everyone else is screaming in fear I’ll be cussing because the electricity went out and grabbing up that pen and pad.

Quote #3
There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. 
I’m a writer. Can’t I do both?

In my writing, I’m always trying to find a way to bring disparate ideas together to create conflict for my characters to solve. A character who can cuddle and hold down another character so they don’t get away is the epitome of conflict! So, I get carried away and take things to extremes sometimes. So, I kill off a character when the plot gets slow. So, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting and staring at blank walls (pads of paper, PC screens that have gone to black, into space, whatever). I’m pretty much all here, insde my head. I don’t need a shrink because I work out my compulsions and fears and bad memories in my stories. And yes, I can cuddle and hold down a character so they don’t get away. Mwhahahahahaha!

What is life without challenge? Without trials and dares and battles to be fought?
How do you feel about the voices in your head? What they doing today?



32 comments to A Writer’s Life: I Hear Voices and I See Dead People

  • Guin

    I was always staring off into space when I was a kid. There was always more interesting stuff happening in my head than on the playground. 😛

    A couple of my voices are finally finishing up a scene, now that I know where to go with it. I need to prod a couple more for a story I’ve put aside and need to get back to. (Hrm, maybe a cattle prod would work…)

    …and with comments like that, I am probably encouraging them to beat me to death from the inside out. 😛 But in general I love having them, because it means I’m never bored.

  • Guin, I love the cattle prod idea! I’m not particularly nice to the voices in my head either. But then, I don’t think they want me to be nice.

  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
    –E. L. Doctorow

  • Ryl

    Sacred bovine, Faith, it sounds like we were separated at birth! My hubby is frequently asking me ‘where’ I am, or whether my characters are again/still bouncing around in my head and giving me no respite.

    More than once my characters’ve hijacked a storyline and taken it someplace that was a complete surprise to me — wrangling figments sometimes leaves me feeling more like a stage director than a writer. Not only do they refuse to do anything they consider out of character for themselves, they comment on *my* life, shaking their heads and sadly tisking at me.

    My quote:
    When other people hear voices they take pills. When I hear voices I take dictation.

  • I LOVE my voices. Not to mention my worlds, my slowly evolving plot lines, and everything else banging around in my head. Imagination is, I believe, the key to happiness. It can make us better artists, better scholars, better friends, better lovers, better parents. It can carry us through boredom, help us past grief, and allow us to transform the routine into something magical.

    Today, my voices are talking about ships on Boston Harbor in 1768, and the reason why every person on one of those ships is dead….

  • Wolf, I totally agree!
    No you don’t!
    Yes I do!

  • Ryl, I LOVE the *taking dictation!* Perfect line!
    Jane Yellowrock comments on my life a lot. Her Beast is a lot like my inner voices and Beast’s comments always strike home with me. Make me laugh. Or make me angry. It’s wonderful to be a writer and have an outlet for my insanity!

  • Okay David. I CAN NOT wait to read this book! All are dead? I love it! (Wonders what I have to do to see an ARC…)

  • Ryl

    Oh, Faith — they nag me, they harry me, they lie in wait to pounce on me when I wake up: “Her eyelid twitched, I saw it! Poke her again, we got Important Stuff to do!”

    [no respect — they could at least wait till I’ve had my first cuppa,…]

    Heck, I even blogged about a couple of weeks ago:

  • mudepoz

    I THOUGHT I heard voices in my head.
    Turned out to be my dog pack.
    They are pretty vociferous about food. 🙂

  • Young_Writer

    I love the voices in my head! If not, they get “accidently pushed” into the garbage disposal. 😉 I can almost se them at the empty desk or lunch table seat next to me. They’re real I tell you, real!

    Maybe I AM insane…

  • Ryl, what a fabulous post! YOu open with a bang >>The people living in my head are getting uppity.>> and carry it all the way through. Grand! And yes, I do believe that we are twins, embryos separated before birth. Hmmm. Though you may have been frozen a few years before being implanted. 🙂

    Mud, you *do* have dog voices in your head, though smells, scents and body language makes it a different experience.

  • YWriter, perhaps we are insane, but as long as they give me some way to write it all down, I can live with the appelation.

  • Well, this is book II I’m working on now. But yeah, we can get you an ARC at some point. And maybe one of the first book, too….

  • Eeeeeek! (jumps up and down, hand over mouth)

  • Tom G

    (Wonders what I have to do to see an ARC…)
    The only ARCs I see are at McDonalds. LOL

    Congrats on scoring, Faith. The voices in my head aren’t as happy for you. They want pizza.

  • Ah, the voices. When I was younger I actually created a tavern in my head where the inactive ones could hang out and leave me alone until I needed them. *peeks inside* Yep, most are still in there! LOL
    But one of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m having a ‘listening’ moment and someone walks in and says “Wake up!” or “You look bored. Maybe I can give you something to do.”
    But I AM doing something!

  • Hey, I want an ARC too! Especially since I’ve been a helpful pirate… 😀

  • Thanks, Tom. (channeling my inner mobster voice) Hey, a word to da wise(guys). You gotta feed dem voices. Dey can get sorta cranky when dey don’t get pizza, know what I mean?

    J.R. (still channeling my inner mobster) Hope you made sure da bar is well stocked and da short order cook is on 24/7. Dem voices, dey get reeeeeeal cranky widout da booz. And happy voices needs more dan pizza, know what I’m talkin’ about? Dey need some burgers too.

    Misssssty… Pirates is useful. If da man forget what a help you been to him, tap him on the head wid your sword hilt. Remind him. Yeah… A love tap…

    Shakes self. Sorry ya’ll. Ummm. Where was I?

  • Oh no, I’m not hitting him – he’s helped me this week, too! It’s nice having an historian at hand. 😀

  • Arrrrr… True, so true, cap’n….
    (now channeling my inner pirate, which is a new voice to add to the horde.)

  • My voices have decided to revisit an old story I put together for the game book I wrote, which should be shipping to stores at the moment (woulda been nice to have a historian to help with all that research, I tell ya). After being away from it for a few years and coming back to it I can see a number of places in the short story that now make me cringe. Considering revising it and seeing if the company will post the entire piece (it got cut a bit for space) on their site for the fun of it. Wishing I’d had some beta readers just for the fiction pieces for that book.

    And my WIP is calling as well. That one’s not gonna be ignored for much longer. One day someone’s gonna find me chained to the desk with a wild-eyed and caged look about me, bent over the keyboard giggling and clicking away and my daughter getting her own lunch of twinkies and beans or something equally bizarre.

  • I understand totally! The hubby has made do with PopTarts and cheese sandwiches a few times…

  • Sarah

    See, this is why I come here. To be with my own people. Where I don’t have to repress the weirdness. When I was a kid, I used to refer to ‘the reporter,’ the part of my consciousness that watched what the rest of me did and narrated everything as if it were a story. I lived my life as an ongoing story, told in a revolving set of genres. It took me some time to realize that most other people don’t view their lives this way.

    As for the imaginary friends…Don’t get me started. Child psyche classes were all about how kids have AN imaginary friend they grow out of. I never did bring myself to tell the professor I had so many imaginary friends I’d lost count of them. And imaginary villains, and bit players too. I learned early on that the correct answer to “what are you thinking about?” was “Nothing much.” I got too many weird looks if I said something like “oh, about halfway across the Misty Mountains and caught in a magic blizzard.” (Unless it was my Grammy Adams – gosh I miss her.)

  • Sarah

    PS – Ryl, I liked your blog post. It made me want to meet your character. (Loved the one on feminism too.)

  • Sarah, we writers need one another. My inner child would have understood your inner child perfectly well! And… you mean other peopel don’t narrate their lives???? HOW WEIRD!

  • Yes, Misty and I have a mutual aid society going — ships for history. Care to join the fun and contribute medicine? And yeah, Misty, you’ve earned an ARC too.

  • Oh goodie, I’m not crazy for narrating my life and composing things (usually posts or Facebook/Twitter updates) in my head.

  • David, I’d love to contribute medicine! Just send me what you need. (There is an historic house near where I live called Brattenburg. It has an old mecical book. I wish I could get my hands on it!) I have a friend I’ll put you in touch with, too, who has all SORTS of old books on esoteric stuff!

    Moira, if they call us crazy, we’ll have to start a new society and…wait. We’re all ready members. We’re writers!

  • I call Faith for med info all the time. Just recently we had a lovely conversation about the best way to stab a man so he bleeds to death but not too fast. 😉

  • Ryl

    @Faith and @Sarah —

    — thanks for reading; gives me hope my time at the keyboard isn’t a waste. 🙂

  • Misty — someday, someone will call the cops on us! 🙂

    Ryl, life without books would be … just horrible.