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Yay, I'm a writer

"There was no magic banner that appeared over your crib at birth saying, "Yes, this one, let's make this one's life an agonizing, lonely struggle with very little money and even less success. Let's make this one a WRITER."--Caroline Sharp 

Writing is a disease--a sort of psychosis--and people who do it well share the same set of symptoms or neuroses--which ever term suits your fancy.

A friend lent me a great book about writing through writers block--A Writer's Workbook--by Caroline Sharp. In it, Sharp identifies many truths about the chore of writing--perhaps most affirming, if you identify yourself as a writer, is a tidbit from author Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the forward.

Gilbert recollects a phone conversation she had with a writer friend about not writing.

The friend posed a hypothetical question: "Would you rather wash all your dirty laundry, run it through the drier, fold it, put it all away in your drawers, and then take those same clean clothes out of your drawers, unfold them, and wash them all over again or ... would you rather spend the same amount of time writing?" 

Gilbert answered, "Laundry. I would definitely do the laundry twice."

The question "brought up one of the more interesting features about writing; namely, how much we hate it. For people who make big claims about loving the written word, authors will do almost anything to avoid actually writing those written words."

I think there are two elements to being a writer. First, you need to be literate. Second, and perhaps more important, you need to be a storyteller.

You may have noticed that I have a story for just about everything, because I was a storyteller from--or so I'm told--the moment I could talk. I believe the label back then was compulsive liar, but aren't they one and the same; liars and storytellers?

My family for instance was small. I am an only child and I hated it. So I invented brothers and sisters for myself, and I told wild tales at school about my siblings' bad behavior--one of my brothers was a drunk, my oldest sister was a slut and let's not forget the twins.

I apparently told my second-grade teacher the week before parent-teacher conferences that my mother had given birth to identical twin girls. Mom was of course flattered--a little taken back--when Ms. Bearwald told her how wonderful she looked--just amazing.

"For just having twins," she said. "I can't believe it."

People were very concerned for my welfare.

"Alexis, do you believe these people exist," a teacher once asked me. "Do you interact with them?"

I told her how boring it was being an only child -- that I wanted my life to sound more exciting.

"Why would you want these people in your family?" She asked. "These people you talk about are horrible human beings."

"I don't think they're horrible," I told her.

I wish I'd known then that I was a writer. When I think of all the money my parents wasted on child psychologists. I'm a diagnosed writer, that's all.

"Writers make everybody nervous but we terrify Silly Service workers. Our apartments always look like a front for something, and no matter how carefully we tidy up for guests we always seem to miss the note card that says, "Margaret has to die soon." We own the kind of books that spies use to construct codes, like The Letters of Mme. de Sevigne, and we are the only people in the world who write oxymoron in the margin of the Bible. Manuscripts in the fridge in case of fire, Strunk's Elements in the bathroom, the Laramie City Directory explained away with "It might come in handy," all strike fear in the GS-7 heart. Nobody really wants to sleep with a writer, but Silly Service workers won't even talk to us."--Florence King


  1. How can you say being an only child was boring?? I was never bored around you.


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