Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Writer, The Warning, and the Judo Hobo

You know that image of The Writer? It's black and white, and he's maybe wearing a button-up shirt under a thin sweater (either expensive cashmere or scratchy, threadbare wool). He's near a typewriter, a stack of cool, white pages turned neatly down beside it. He's either sitting cross-legged and smoking or standing, kind of slouched, one elbow leaned against the bookcase, a cigarette dangling between elegant fingers? Yes, my go-to image of The Writer is a thin, middle-aged man in the late '50s, looking somehow both roguish and refined.

Is he sensitive? Only to the troubles of his fellow man. Does he ever second-guess himself into paralysis? Not so long as there's a single swig of the hard stuff left anywhere in his country estate/cabin/loft.

So, why the hell can't I be that guy? The obvious answer is that I'm not a guy. Also, that image is a snapshot. It doesn't take into account months of agonizing brain block, rejection, or the sneering, leering disappointment of family. If I hear "real job" one more time, I will start stripping. Just kidding. I am, after all, someone's mother now. Side note: the image also doesn't take into account the fact that The Writer may very well have WRITTEN IN THE NUDE.

I used to be very well-adjusted. And by that, I mean I didn't give a shit about most things. If you define "well-adjusted" as anything else, I don't need to hear it. But now, when I've actually written a few novels AND gotten an elusive agent, I'm a freaking mess. I tremble when I can't twist my words into fine images, swoon when my dialogue arrives flat, and spend literally eighteen hours a day pogoing through the interwebs trying to entice followers and hoping they like me. (read: not literally). Worst of all, I've had to take on a diplomatic mildness in order to not offend. And, believe me, my natural state is one of offense.

There's that old wife's tale that artists are prone to mental illness. Well, it may be more than a tale. But I swear I didn't start out like this. I think that the road to publication is making me crazy. Not interesting crazy. Not awesome crazy. Just stupid old batshit crazy. I'm a failed submission away from joining the hobo army (FYI, this awesomeness comes up when you google "hobo army": Judo Hobo) that occupies the wooded area behind my office. And even if they let me join the army, I'd probably only be a private, maybe a corporal on account of I have all my teeth.

So, let this be a warning to you. Lose the image of The Writer. Practice your craft. Share opinions. Read a lot. Always tug your ear twice when passing through the Hobo Wood, once for luck and again as a sign of respect. And don't let the crazies take you down.


  1. Batshit crazy is the best kind of crazy. Now put your clothes back on and start writing. ;)

  2. Gah! I can't think of anything more distracting than trying to write in the buff.

  3. I kind of like crazy, no matter which one it is. Also, the idea of stripping as a real job is just disturbing.

  4. I like crazy too. :) You'll be all right. And congrats on the agent. I think this is the first time I've stopped by your blog.

  5. Personally, I like this image of the writer:

    Or better still:

  6. Claudie, I don't mind crazy from a distance, except for the hoarding kind. That's a bit grimace-inducing.

    April, thanks for stopping by! And, thank you!

    Ace, I love the second one! I remember the first time I saw the one of Thompson. All I could think was "who can smoke a pipe in the heat?".

  7. "Worst of all, I've had to take on a diplomatic mildness in order to not offend. And, believe me, my natural state is one of offense."

    I think we were separated at birth. Love your blog, by the way, especially the tone, so I think you're striking a good balance of what you'd like to say and what you are saying. For me anyway. :)

  8. Mdal, thanks so much! I do so love to come across kindred spirits here in the webiverse.

  9. Is it true that in his left hand the Judo Hobo carries two sticks of dynamite and a bag full of kick ass?