I am obviously the source of great consternation for my offspring. Just a few days ago my daughter questioned my comfort level with my rather solitary work conditions.
True, I work out of my home and spend the bulk of my time on the computer… I tried to explain that in addition to whatever writing projects I am working on, I also have to do research and promotions. And yes, I do enjoy the occasional social chat or email. Besides I live in an area where going anywhere besides a visit to one of my neighbors requires driving, something I only do out of necessity.
“But Mom, sometimes we worry that you’re becoming an agoraphobic.”
This made me laugh. But I did look up the true meaning of agoraphobia just to be sure; agoraphobics generally resist leaving the safety of their homes due to a fear of an uncontrolled setting and fear of social embarrassment. Well that settles it. I assured her that I am in no way even close to the description. First of all, and many of you already know this about me, I had been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician and first responder for nearly three decades and that means constantly running towards uncontrolled situations – and even more than that, I am probably one of the most shameless folks around, I LOVE to leave people speechless over my behavior!
Now getting back to the solitary nature of my work – a writer’s life is NEVER lonely. We entertain all kinds of company all the time. All of the characters we create and all of the stories running through our minds keep us very busy. Everywhere I go (and despite my children’s concerns I DO go out) there’s always people watching, there are scents and sounds to feed my senses, and there are real life mirages that form the basis of lots of new stories. I always make it a point to examine motivations for the things people do, whether I agree with them or not, because it helps me to add dimension to the characters I create. I never stop working no matter what I am doing because everything I see, feel, hear and think offers the possibility of being in one of my stories.
“But Mom, don’t you ever turn it off?”
I can no more turn off my brain than I can turn off my need to breathe. I told her how her how my rabbi once teased me that he knew I was trying to figure a way to rewrite all the biblical tales to create some new story as I read on a Sabbath morning. She looked at me with doubt. I reassured her that no writer ever stops working even when they sleep and then I told her about my dear friend Charmaine Gordon who “sleep writes” and keeps a memo pad on her nightstand to record the dreams she turns into great works of fiction.
I don’t know what it is about the way our brains work, but other writers understand our drive to weave our fiction and manipulate our words. Perhaps there is something questionable about the writer’s mind. For years everyone said that the right brain fostered creative energy and went on to claim that writers and other artists were truly “in their right minds”; nowadays there are alleged professionals refuting the right brain-left brain theories and taking away our claim to the creative right. While we all may raise an eyebrow or two when we hear someone say they hear voices in their head, writers may indeed feel a kinship. …maybe there is just a bit of, ahem, you know.
added note (3/3):
While I certainly didn't plan it ahead with him, last night during the Academy Award ceremony, Robert DeNiro added to this post with these words: "The mind of a writer can be a terrifying thing - isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and crushing inadequacy - and that's on a good day"
I think it is just fantastic that Mr. DeNiro agrees with me!