Monday, August 29, 2005

Not All Crazy People Are Writers, But...

There's a classic quote from Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman', in which Calliope the muse discovers she's been sold to a new owner by her captor, Erasmus Fry. She says, "But you said that someday, you would grant me my freedom. You promised!" Fry responds, "Writers are liars. Surely you must have discovered that by now?" (Inexact memory might cause me to paraphrase that. A general trait of my writing is I'm a lazy bugger who can't be arsed to look things up, and my memory generally covers for it.)

And yes. Writers are liars. But beyond that, they're clinically insane. How many times have you heard of a writer talking about a story that "wrote itself"? Or a writer who talked about how he planned to do something with a character, but the character "told him not to", or "went somewhere different than I expected." When you read the words of a writer, you are reading the thoughts of someone so utterly delusional that they've created entire, internally consistent personalities inside their head and are channelling them out onto the page. Not just sci-fi, horror, and fantasy writers (generally considered to be the "crazy people" of the profession), but even the most mainstream of mainstream writers are essentially borderline schizophrenic.

So be glad writers can make a living at this shit. Because otherwise you'd be paying to institutionalize us.


Anonymous said...

I have to totally agree with this. I first noticed this when I was thinking "what would this character do" and then I took a step back and thought he do whatever the hell I want him to do, he only actually exists in my head. Of course to be a good writer you have to get into other people's heads, and who does that better than people with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Starman1976 said...

That's similar to what R.E. Howard claimed. That Conan (the Barbarian) wrote himself, and that he didn't know what Conan would do until the story was finished.