The Mad Gift

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing a teen writing workshop at Lilly Library where I described writing as the "Mad Gift." This is because to be a writer is to be slightly insane, listening to the whisperings of imaginary people in "what if?" worlds that don't exist and devote a substantial amount of our precious mortal time on Earth to writing things down in the greater hopes of sharing them with the world, but most often to simply be allowed to get some sleep. Like much of life, writing is not so much a choice or an occupation, but more like a vocation thrust upon you with a geas from an unknown entity who says, "Here. I give you this. Now go do something about it." Or being hit with a particularly large bat up the head.

We write because we can't NOT write.

I don't know about yours, but my Muse is fickle as the weather in New England; one moment sunny and trilling and free and the next petulant and moody and prone to bite. She is stubborn, recalcitrant and goes into fits and rages at ridiculous times (I often imagine her laughing as she hits me with a bout of inspiration in the middle of a shower or driving in a storm). She is also benevolent and kind when pacified by peaceful thoughts, regular exercise, and creative conversation. She can be hilarious in the wee hours and sparkling when inspired. I accept my lot as her plaything, a puppet on dancing strings, and only hope that I'm lucky enough/gracious enough/smart enough/present enough to be there when the bolt strikes.

And when I'm not, I have to keep writing, anyway.

Writing is like reading: transporting and prone to time-travel. Hours pass unnoticed when I'm at the keys and I have to remember to do things like eat or pick up the kids from school. I accept this and I'm (usually) grateful. I feel it missing if I haven't been writing for too long a stretch of time. And then I wait and a beg and I try to outsmart the fact that I haven't had a new idea or I'm stuck in the Great Swampy Middle and am starting to resemble a hobo in my frizzy hair and sweatshirt, muttering to myself aloud.

This is acceptable if, and only if, you are an artist, right?

Writing is an addiction, with all the highs and lows, and I hit all the verbs in the process: I laugh, I sweat, I rail, I rage, I cry, I get bored, hungry, tired, scared, hopeful, angsty, euphoric and then do it all again the next day. And the next. And the next. Until I hit the magic words "The End"...and then start all over again. I can't help it!

If writers described their symptoms to a doctor, she'd pronounce us insane with a nice rubber room to sleep in or a prescription of pills with very long names. But the hapless world allows us to roam freely amongst them, never realizing that we're watching, listening, waiting, dreaming, imagining, scheming... and writing them all down.


Here's to hoping that the Mad Gift never leaves you. ;-)


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