The Mind of a Writer

A few announcements... Things are heating up on the Apocalypse Weird front. We are now less than thirty days from the big February 23rd launch of the first five books, which will include my novel Reversal. I will be revealing my cover (designed by the super talented Michael Corley) very soon. If you sign up on the Apocalypse Weird site, you will be entitled to receive ARCs of all five launch novels. There will be some great prizes for reviewing the ARCs, including a pitch session to be a tier two Apocalypse Weird writer, so sign up.

I have also been asked to contribute to a conspiracy theory anthology, entitled Tales of Tinfoil, edited by the amazing David Gatewood. I am writing a story about Elvis … and after many days of research I am actually beginning to believe he might be alive. Tales of Tinfoil is coming in April.

The Mind of a Writer ... according to Robert de Niro?

A few days ago, in response to a Facebook post in which I made some comments regarding the realities of being a writer, a friend posted the following photo on my timeline.

At first I thought it was a bit funny and cute (and of course I “liked” it), but then I thought a little bit more seriously about what it was saying, and I found myself mystified. Does Robert de Niro really think he knows the realities of being a writer? How would he like it if I posted the realities of being an actor? If one were to take his statement as truth, writers, it would seem, are unstable, coffee-drinkers with self-esteem issues who do not really churn out a lot of work.

Much of his statement seems to apply to a writing industry long gone by. Writers twenty or even thirty years ago may have had some of these characteristics, but I do not think that most of his labels apply in the slightest today. Crippled by procrastination? What serious writer can afford to procrastinate these days? caffeine-addled? I know a lot of writers who drink coffee, but most of us have the wherewithal not to drink so much as to become “addled”. Writing in an addled state is generally not productive or advisable. Neurotic, yes maybe. But one of the main reason writers are neurotic is because people like Robert de Niro (sorry Robert, I really do love your acting and I think you might have been just delivering your lines to be funny) think that they truly understand writers and the writing profession. And they don’t. But their observations, if not corrected, or worse, if accepted by writers, become part of our lexicon on who and what writers are.

And yet, a quick scroll through the links that come up when one Googles his comment is that many people, including writers, think he was dead on!

The one thing I do agree with him on is that the mind of a writer can be a terrifying thing. (Of course as a writer, I think the minds of most people can be a terrifying thing, but I digress …).

So in the spirit of good fun, I decided to rewrite the comment. I might have gotten a little carried away (which is also perhaps a reflection of the mind of a writer).

The Mind of a Writer ... For Real

The mind of a writer can be a terrifying thing.

Because they must work in one of the most competitive industries in the world where the barriers to entry are low, and the failure rate astronomical, they must be smart, creative, crafty, and strategic. (The logical extension of this is that to be successful, they must work harder than many other people, and they must never procrastinate).

Because more than 95% of writers must work two jobs (their day job and their writing job), they are highly organized, disciplined, sleep-deprived, and a bit psychotic.

Because they are fully aware of their passion (writing), and that the financial odds are that they cannot fully live their passion, they are occasionally whiny, morose and prone to drinking.

Because they can be pilloried for a missing comma, not being aware that rifles take cartridges not bullets, and failing to create characters that every single reader on earth likes and finds realistic, they are methodical, hyper-attentive to detail, and excruciatingly aware of human motivations.

Because they must be attuned to the human condition, they are often sensitive, but because even great writers get some completely scathing reviews for their work, they learn to develop a thick skin.

Because they have a thick skin and are not ever allowed to respond to their critics, they often feel misunderstood, and the reality is, they probably are.

Because they know that most people have no idea what they do and think they are crazy, a bit narcissistic, and sit around in their underwear making shit up and getting paid millions, they are neurotic.

Because they must consistently put on a public face to promote and market their books, when in actuality many of them are serious introverts, they can be, upon some occasions, tortured and mildly hysterical.

Because they have vivid imaginations they often work in possibilities, not probabilities, and can play out all the possibilities of any scenario, they are often fearful and worry lots (like about their kids hucking off cliffs in a freeski competition, say).

Because they work in words, and must, on a daily basis, organize those words into a logical narrative, they are often skilled at argument and negotiation (but because they are introverts, sometimes these arguments and negotiations only take place in their heads).

And most importantly

Because their job requires them to put significant research into how to commit the perfect murder, traffic drugs, and invade entire planets, they know stuff (like how to commit the perfect murder).*

Because they have to write about real people, they are watching you.

Because they are people, they make mistakes, and try to be lovable, and are as highly variable as people in any profession, so generalizing about a writer's mind is risky.

*But because they are writers, they probably won’t do any of these things.

Self-loathing, panic-stricken and isolated? These may be true for some writers, sometimes, on bad days (not good days, thank you very much Robert). But aren’t they true for everyone on bad days?

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What do you think? Do you agree with Robert de Niro?