Writing a novel can be dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that a book can harm its author. If you spend 50% of your time (or more), head down, mind drifting through a world of high pressure action, bloodshed and psychological warfare, then it’s only natural that’s going to rub off on you after a while.
This got me wondering about why we continue to explore that relationship between us and the book. For example, I am approaching the ending of my first serious attempt at writing a publishable piece of work and the thought of getting sucked back in fills me with a little dread, a sprinkling of apprehension and a fist full of excitement.
I know it’s going to be tough. Some of my beloved characters won’t survive, others will be irrevocably damaged and some might just come out victorious. How, as authors, can we not be deeply effected by our own works of fiction? We dedicate huge mental resources into creating our drafts. We hold the hands of each character, guiding them through a minefield of challenges, sometimes deliberately shoving them in front of said mines just to see what happens.
We can be vicious and forgiving, lighthearted on one page and dicing with death on another. I’m not entirely sure that’s healthy.
Writing those devastating scenes takes it out of us, leaves us breathless and exhausted. How do you begin to explain it to those that don’t write? It’s not real, but man it still hurts. Many writers reach for a crutch, something to steady them through the rough times.
Once we’ve been through the wringer, typed those slippery last two words ‘The End’ and have completely bled our last drop of creative juices into the book, what do we do? We do it again. Then again. Suckers for punishment, we come back for more.
The analytical part of me says this repeated self-emotional-mutilation can’t be a good thing.
I find that the book, especially near its ending, often distracts me from my daily life. It creeps into my mundane daily grind, whispering sweet words of seduction, luring me back to my laptop and sitting me down like a teacher determined to tutor its wayward pupil.
Any non-writer reading this probably thinks I’m a little loopy, most likely I am, but the writers will get it. We like to think we’re slaves to our muses but really thats a nice way of shifting responsibility sideways and not dealing with the source of these emotional roller coasters.
It’s not just while we’re writing either. On Twitter recently I asked how to create distance between myself and my work and the reply was, author’s rarely disengage. They were right. Nothing is safe from us, we’re watching everything, taking it in, words wrapping around the visual stimuli, squeezing out metaphors that translate moments to paper.
It’s a little bit frightening when you sit and think too deeply about the world a writer lives in. We revisit the rabbit hole, deliberately throwing ourselves into the fantasy to summon the very best and worst parts of our souls and bare them for all in written form. On the outside looking in, one could almost pity the writer, but you know what, I know the secret. All authors know the secret.
We love it. Bring the hurt on. Throw the pain down in front of me and let me unravel it, pluck it apart and examine it in macro. Every day we jump back in, revelling in the challenges and analysing the fallout.
Yes, writing can be dangerous. All power is dangerous, and you know what they say about power. The trick is to not let it corrupt us but to conquer it, if we can do that, then we’re much more than writers, we’re heroes.