The Writer’s Life — Schizoid


I’m having one of those days. You know, when you’ve worked the graveyard shift, commuted home, gotten in, and it’s nearly 8 a.m. and … it’s blog day! And every single blog idea, all three, formerly residing in your head, are gone. Oh, wait. That’s just me.

So, I’m going to run on a bit about souls and skin. Yes, you read right. Souls and skin. Not souls like a TV evangelist shouts about, but the writer’s soul. And not skin like alligator or ostrich skin – the kind used for really nice boots. Not skin as in the largest organ on the human body. Not even pigskin and the all American football pastime. But the writer’s skin. And since two souls reside in this skin (see how that came together?) I’ll be bringing Gwen, the AKA, in to the discussion.

Gwen: (Waves!) Hi, y’all!

Faith: The writer’s soul and the writer’s skin. I’ll start with mine.

Gwen: Um, ours.

Faith: Wait. Not really. Let me talk a bit. Between us, the AKA and I have been commercially published for over 20 years now, and one might think that, with all the problems our conjoined writer-souls have endured, we’d have really thick, crocodile, writer’s skin. And we do, sorta. Kinda.

Gwen: Not really. Don’t listen to her. She can still experience hurt at a bad review, even if it is a review from a literary reviewer who should never review fantasy, *hates* urban fantasy, and takes that hate out on lowly, little her in a clearly biased, petty, insulting review. She makes jewelry when that happens. With wire cutters and sharp objects. And fierce concentration. It’s kinda scary.

Faith: You go shopping. For boots. And sandals. And jingly hip scarves. Y’all, once she tried to buy a gray parrot. Seriously. Who would have taken care of him? Not me! I wasn’t even published yet!

Gwen: Yeah, yeah, yada, yada. You were talking about souls. And skin. Get on with it. It’s bedtime.

Faith: Right. The writer’s soul is all mixed up in the muse, which many of us personify and give attributes to, as if said muse is something apart from us, the mundane person we are in our everyday lives. Yet, the muse is the artistic part of the writer, the driving force behind writing, the creative process, the joy of conception, construction, design. The thoughtful planning, plotting, and outlining, and the seat-of-the-pants moments when things unplanned and unexpected happen and a story begins to build at a furious pace, as if it, too, like that personified muse, has a separate existence.

Gwen: Just put your butt in a chair and write, girlie. Your muse is so ugly he scares small children.

Faith: And David. I think it gave him nightmares. And, besides, I got muse-cowboy from you.

Gwen: (with a sly grin) True, cowboys are sexy! But *you* gave him the pasties and the whip. (taps chin, suddenly serious) And I think when you came along, and started writing, that gave him a soul. Muse-cowboy, not David. People come with one. Until you came along, our muse was pretty silent. Mostly drank from the bourbon bottle in his desk drawer. Stared at the far wall. You don’t think … he was bored?

Faith: Yep. I do. But taking a chance brought him to life. When I started to write fantasy, which had been your great love all along, that … let’s call it that adventure …. that adventure gave him personality and purpose. And gave me a chance to be my own writer soul, too, finally. It was the adventure, the flight of pure creativity, the dance of the writer’s soul, that brought him, and us both, to life. (Gwen doesn’t say anything. The silence stretches, growing uncomfortable.) It was hard, wasn’t it? To take a chance again. To stick your neck out again. To find new stories to write. A new voice.

Gwen: (sounding droll) A new agent. New pub house. New editor. New readership who had never heard of me. You. Us.  Up until then, my skin had been pretty thick. Heck, you’re right. I had to find a new writer’s soul. And you are … um … very different from me.

Faith: (saucy smile) I’m cuter. No, really, when you started over, new writer’s skin had to grow. *My* new skin.

Gwen: New skin is … tender? Delicate? Easily torn?

Faith: Yes. It is. It’s painful to start anything new, especially writing. And just as painful to start over. It’s painful to try, try, try again. It’s easier to just give up.

Gwen: So, what do you say to new (as yet unpublished) writers? What do you say about writer’s souls and thin skin, and accepting the dose of hard reality along with the creative drive?

Faith: I say that we can grow new skin. Thicker skin. We can even grow a new writer’s soul to invigorate the creative muse. I say that to take a chance on a story, or a career, is important. Vital. To give up is to shrivel and die. To write is to live.

Gwen: (laughs ruefully) It’s worth it. Even when it’s so very, very hard.

Faith and Gwen, who are feeling a bit schizoid today.


15 comments to The Writer’s Life — Schizoid

  • Y’all, once she tried to buy a gray parrot.

    I’m so glad you…she…y’all didn’t. Birds give me the willies, and I’d never be able to come over and drink tea with you.

    I say that to take a chance on a story, or a career, is important. Vital. To give up is to shrivel and die. To write is to live.

    I may print this out and tape it to my desk. Lovely.

  • (smiles) Misty, you write pirate books. You have *snakes*!
    I’m stunned! The parrot was so lonely and cute!

  • I loved seeing both sides of your writer soul. In my experience it’s almost impossible for one voice to inhabit my mind.

    As for the parrot, I rescue and rehome strays, it would be virtually impossible to have a bird around. Then again whose to say it can’t be metaphysical (winks). (Hugs)Indigo

  • Faith, thanks. It’s so true. Thick skin is vital. And it’s very hard. I think the Internet has made it worse and better at the same time. Worse because anyone can say not very nice things, and text as a medium can be so easily misread for tone. Better because it gives us a chance to network and communicate and grow, if we’re willing.

  • It’s the pasties. Really. Well, and the whip….

    I’ve never had the dual soul/new skin thing, but I will soon, when Thieftaker comes out under D.B. Jackson. For now though, it’s still just me. And I am a thin-skinned writer. Always have been, although I’m tougher now than I used to be. Callouses build up. Scar tissue deadens the nerves a little. And I don’t think you can survive in this business without gaining some callouses and more than a few scars. But in the end, I’m drawn to the same phrase that Misty quoted. Writing is too much a part of my life to ever give it up, no matter how rough things get. Thanks for this, Faith. Hope you’re sleeping now.

  • The parrot was so lonely and cute!

    Ah, see, that’s what they want you to think. So you open the cage door to comfort the poor little thing and wham! Bird claws at the old eyes!

  • I say that to take a chance on a story, or a career, is important. Vital. To give up is to shrivel and die. To write is to live.

    Okay, so I freely admit that I’m a little homonally challenged today, but this really touched me. Like Misty, I’m going to print it out and hang it somewhere. And probably pass it on to other folks.

    Okay, I’m going to wax a little emotional for just one second (maybe more): MW has really helped me beyond just (excellent) tips for writing. When I’ve doubted that I could write and write at a publishable level, and doubted that I should even bother to try, you guys have posted things that make me feel more confident, more able, and like it is possible.

    I really appreciate the blatant optimism on this board. It’s not that y’all say it’s easy, you don’t. But you say it is possible, doable, and that means so much to someone who, on occasion, feels abit like it isn’t worth the effort or time, or that I’m spining my wheels, or whatever.

    So, um, yeah. Thanks.

  • You know, Pea, what you said is true for us too. All writers, except maybe those at the Stephen King level, go through these emotion time and again. It helps me, just like it does you, to read this post and know that Faith feels it too. Ultimately, for me, when I’m really down on the whole writing thing, I try to imagine giving it up — and I can’t. I know that even if I did something else with my life, these stories would keep piling up in my brain. That and part of me is too darn stubborn to ever stop.

  • Indigo, I admire anyone who rescues animals. It is has to be a difficult job, taking on someone else’s orphans (or worse, rejects) with their ingrained habits, and trying to find the right new mix/family for them. I *adore* our rescued babies (dogs) and and am so grateful to the fosters who kept them until we they came into our lifes.

    As to voices, it can be a bit scary when they all come out at once. (laughing)

    Moira. I totally agree about the Internet. Tone, when acheived soley by dialogue without the additional stage direction and narritive overvoice is so rife with possible misunderstand and easily hurt feelings. Yet … What Possibilities! What a future at our fingertips!

  • David, the scary part was that Gary (original alter ego) was still alive when Gwen and I formed our partnership.

    (whispers) I think she strangled him and hid him in the basement. She’s a MURDER writer, you know!

    Misty. I still have flashbacks to the hawk who attacked a cherub statue sitting in my kitchen window. The sight of talons and its underbelly, chest, and throat as it back-winged, talons scrabbling at the window… I could see *exactly* what prey sees. Wow!

  • Pea Emily, don’t give up. Yes it is hard! But in many ways also much easier for you than it ever was for me. There was no way to meet published writers back then except at cons, and they didn’t want to hang with unpubs like me. Lunch with a writer???? Not possible. Mail with writer? Took ages. Talk to a pub? Impossible!!!! Now the world is changing. And it opns up new doors for writers that never existed before. You CAN do it!

    Stuart. Exactly! I forgot to add into my dialogue just how important being stubborn is! It may be the glue that holds a writer’s souls together.

  • Hope I didn’t miss anyone when I got up to take the dogs out (and to listen the lawn crackle and crunch under my feet in this heat wave.) Heading to the mountains is out this week. But getting away to them would certainly be nice. (Imagines a cool rushing mountain stream thudding under my boat.) Heading back up to bed instead. One more night of the graveyard shift. Which is scary. Can you *see* how crazy it makes me?

  • Sorry I’m coming to this discussion late, but it really spoke to me. Actually, at first I laughed at the humor (Boy, have I had days like that!), but Faith, you brought it around and hit me smack between the eyes! I needed it. My husband and I have had some health issues lately and I’ve been wallowing – and whining. Thanks for waking me up. Seconding Pea Faerie – you folks here at MW are awesome!

    Now, to get back to writing…

  • Young_Writer

    Can I ask a quick question? Does a middle schooler have a chance at being published? Thank you in advanced! ^.^

  • Absolutely. Anyone who writes a compelling story has a chance of being published. A middle schooler would probably have a few more legal steps to deal with, since a minor cannot enter into a binding contract, but that’s the least of your concerns at this point.

    The most important thing you can do is write a good story, with characters who come alive off the page. Let an adult you trust read it, and then take her advice to heart. (Not your mom or dad – you can share it with them of course, but they love you, and they’ll be looking for ways to build you up. Choose a teacher or a librarian, someone who will tell you what needs fixing.) Let a peer you trust read it, and listen to what he says, too. Make sure your copy is as grammatically correct and free of spelling errors as you can make it before you ever send it anywhere. When you finish writing and revising the story, do your research on agents, so you don’t waste your time sending your story to the wrong people.

    Good luck!