Thursday, May 17, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, May 17, 2012 35 comments
"Friends sometimes ask me, 'Don't you get lonely sitting by yourself all day?' At first it seemed odd to answer No.Then I realized that I am not alone; I was in the book; I was with the characters....

In order for a book (or any project or enterprise) to hold our attention for the length of time it takes to unfold itself, it has to plug into some internal perplexity or passion that is of paramount importance to us.... It's fun to be with [these characters] because they're wrestling with the same issue that has its hooks in us. They're our soul mates, our lovers, our best friends. Even the villains."

--Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (p. 46)

Do you find your writing hours a companionable time with your characters? What do you think of Pressfield's prerequisite--that to enthrall us enough to write them, they must plug into our issues or passions?

35 comments:

  1. I always tell the partner-in-crime that I prefer to be alone, because most people I meet in real life will never be as interesting as the people I meet in my head. Which sounds psychotic, I know, but I channel it positively.

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    1. I think Pressfield's reasoning of why our characters are more interesting than IRL people rang true--that they are helping us work through some issue or idea that intrigues. People IRL usually have their own agendas.

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  2. I totally agree. Is it bad that I do get lonely sometimes? I love writing, don't get me wrong, but there are times when my characters don't behave and I want to pull my hair out.

    Yeah, maybe that's a bit extreme, but it's true.

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    1. I get what you mean. When it comes down to it, writing involves wresting through things, and as much as our characters can be companions, they can also make what we're wrestling through more difficult at times.

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  3. I love this quote. I agree. Although I don't think I ever have a chance to get lonely and I don't have "hours" at my disposal for writing each day . . .my characters feel real to me when I'm writing them.

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    1. If the engagement that Pressfield mentions is there, the time you do give to your characters feels very full, though, don't you think?

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  4. Absolutely. It's silly to say, but I learn so much about myself through the people I write.

    I think that's why I'm so turned off by unlikable MCs in books I read. I don't like spending time with people who are jerks. :)

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    1. Interesting. I, too, struggle to stick with books with a protagonist who has some less than admirable qualities. But that is also what fiction can and should do--wrangle with the dark stuff. But it's probably better to pour more of those struggles into a villain.

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  5. Yeah, I think I'm enthralled with them. (Though there are days when I'd prefer to shoot them...)

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    1. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference, so the strength of your frustration when they seem to work against you is a sign of being enthralled.

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  6. I'd never thought of it like that, but it's true! My characters do feel real to me. :)

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    1. It seems like a good litmus test of whether a manuscript has potential--can I as author engage deeply?

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  7. It's a good way to think about it. Not sure I've ever considered it as a lonely time. Certainly, an isolating career, but I think most writers are probably okay with that. I think like anything else you're passionate about, when you're in the middle of it, everything feels right.

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    1. I guess the sociability of writing isn't like other kinds of work. But as we turn our inner grapplings into story, part of the beauty is it can speak to others.

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  8. I don't think it's lonely. If I was "working" at a big corporation, I'd probably be stuck in a cubicle for hours at a time anyway with only a bathroom break and lunch.

    If I get lonely for "human" company, I just go to the post office. But I'd much rather just be on the keyboard most days.

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    1. I think you're right that many job settings don't actually provide the kind of deep connection we long for.

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  9. I'm not lonely. I prefer to work at the keyboard by myself. Besides that, there are blogs and boards and emails and places to connect. I love Pressfield's book.

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    1. True, the interwebs can help us find like-minded friends, which is especially helpful when our characters become ornery!

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  10. Well, if this is the case, my secret passion is to take over the world.

    Mwahahaha!

    Funny, but I think of writing as a refuge, yet I've never really felt lonely during the process of putting words on paper. Now the rejection phase is another story...

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    1. I'd say that you're interested in the nature of power and what it does to people--and that could just as easily be a fear of it as a desire for it. (Freud would probably say fear=desire, but I've always been more of a Jungian).

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  11. Hey I just gave you a small shout out on my blog post today for the Random Acts of Kindness Blitz! I hope you are having a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks so much! Words of appreciation always do a heart good. :-)

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  12. Absolutely, I agree. I think once you start feeling bored or lonely with your writing, then your reader will probably feel the same way.

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  13. For sure. If we aren't connected deeply with our characters, readers surely won't do so.

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  14. I think the really great characters we write are people we want to spend time with. I used to smile ear to ear when one character would show up in a scene. I'd think, "Oh, today's going to be fun!"

    They really do quickly become like real people. I think maybe the only time I feel lonely is when I realize no one else knows them yet. Then I'm just the crazy lady talking to invisible people. :)

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    1. I'm especially intrigued by your second comment. I have a friend who's my "alpha reader"--she doesn't critique, but I share my drafts and she cheers me on. I think why I need her in the process is what you mention here--I feel less lonely/crazy when someone else knows my written world a little.

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  15. I am never lonely when I write, for I am engaged either with characters or other thoughts of some kind. Steven's quote is interesting; I'll toss that one around in my head for a while. :)

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. His book points out in a few places how writing can be therapeutic, and how the big stories one feels called to write are a way of bringing healing to parts of ourselves.

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  16. Let's put it this way: When I'm not writing, I miss my characters greatly. :D

    I totally agree with Steven!

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    1. I think he's definitely onto something when it comes to motivation. Love the characters and you can't help but commit to a manuscript.

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  17. I bought a magnet for my refrigerator years ago that said: "She likes imaginary men best of all." The image shows a woman who appears to be talking to an invisible person in a chair. I liked it...almost. Finally, I changed one word. It now reads: "She likes imaginary people best of all." Now it's perfect!

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  18. I find I only get lonely when I'm bored. If I'm writing or daydreaming a new project, there's no loneliness there at all. :)

    Also, congrats on getting a RAOK shoutout this week!

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    1. I think the link he draws between our motivation to write and how engaged we are with the characters rings very true.

      Thanks for coming by!

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  19. I don't get lonely when I write because I am too absorbed in what my characters are experiencing. Sometimes they even come with me when I go for my run!

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