Q: How did you become a writer?
A: Well, let me tell you a story about how I wrote this morning, because that’s pretty close to what I’ve done every day since I first set pen to paper and came up with something slightly more complicated than an obscene doodle. Most people, or so I’m told, struggle out of bed when the alarm goes off, or when their significant other (apparently, some people actually have someone sharing the bed with them… such craziness…) wakes them up. And there are, of course, those people who awaken to the sound of a needy baby, those drill sergeants of the parenting world who yell and scream and cry and make you do repetitive, often disgusting tasks over and over again (things that would seem crazy if you did them in any other context) and never compliment you or thank you but only take every opportunity to yell and scream a little more until you’re broken down and remade in their own image. I have no children of my own, but that image is pretty close to what I have to deal with every day of every week of every lifetime I live… and as a writer, I live quite a few of them.
Just yesterday morning, I was going about my own, normal business when my Muse ran up from the basement she lives in, holding a sheaf of papers and screaming that I had to, absolutely had to take a look at this. I had spent the last week berating her for not talking to me and making me feel like I was blocked, so I jumped up and followed her into the hallway, which suddenly dipped down a couple hundred feet into a cavern filled with the sparklings and shimmerings of a thousand different crystal stalactites and stalagmites. Weaving in and out and between them were seemingly hundreds of tiny, misty bird-like apparitions, and as each one squeezed between the rocks, it squeaked. It was just a tiny squeak, something between a kitten and a rubber doorstop, but the effect of the hundreds of tiny squeals and peeps created a gentle, unearthly music.
“What are these?” I asked.
“You should know,” she said. “This is where I get your ideas from. I felt you were finally ready to see for yourself.”
I stepped a little closer to them. I wasn’t ready to actually grab one, if that was what I was supposed to do, but when I got close to it, I could see a few more details. In between its feathers, I could see a scene, somehow frozen, of a boy bringing home a girl to meet his mother, possibly the worst thing he could ever do, according to the picture. Before I could ask, the wispy creature left the company of his fellows and wrapped itself around my arm.
The pain was excruciating, but I held myself upright. Before I could scream, it had slid up to my shoulder, stuck its tongue in my ear, and began telling me everything, absolutely everything about its life. In an instant, I knew why the boy was horrible but I also knew what he was doing, and what his mom thought, and what the girl thought, and what they had had for breakfast, and the name of the last three books he had read, and the brand of lip gloss she would use if her job paid a little better, and…
“It’s too much,” I said to my Muse, who simply stood next to me in the cavern with a smug smile on her face.
“It can be. This is why I play with them and calm them down a little before I bring them up to you. When you’re yelling at me for not talking to you, that is exactly what I’m doing.”
The creature had calmed down a little, but I still had an endless stream of information flowing into my brain. If I chose to write down everything it said to me, I would be writing for months, and maybe more.
“This is a little too much,” I said, once I could speak again. “I just want to tell a story.”
“Then do that. Decide what you can’t tell, and you’ll have your story. It’s the same way you carve a statue of, say, a mermaid. Chip away everything that doesn’t look like a mermaid and you have your work of art.”
That, my friend, is the process I go through every morning when I write.”
A: No. Actually, I just pick up a pen or sit at the typer and write. What else can you do?