The Writing Virus
If you are reading this then you’ve probably been infected with the writing virus. Instead of carving your name into your desk or signaling your BFF across the room in elementary school, you may have written her a note or even a story that featured her as a lead character. Some of you may have started your story weaving even before you could write. Sure, parents tend to consider stories as lies as opposed to seeing it as a sign of a creative mind. Perhaps you were attempting enliven their mundane lives by populating it with a cookie-eating alien who just happened to throw a few cookies your way.
Maybe writing was your outlet when things didn’t go exactly as you planned. The super hot soccer captain did not ask you to the prom. In turn, you created a story that has a main character, who bears some resemblance to yourself, exacting revenge a’ la Carrie style. What girl hasn’t had a diary? The boys tend to like to call their small diary-like books journals because it sounds less girl-like. All the same, you were writing down your thoughts for yourself and perhaps others. In my younger years, I was convinced I would be famous and thought I needed to track every thought and word. People might want to know later what I was thinking on December 3, 1973. This was probably not the best plan since my sister tended to read my diary and wreck vengeance when she was portrayed in an unfavorable light, which was 95% of the time. Inadvertently, I learned my first lesson about creating characters—disguise them. My second lesson was not to let anyone in the family read your work because they might find themselves.
Maybe you enjoyed English in school, does that mean you have the writing virus? Not necessarily, a true writer (and you do not have to be published to be one) must write. Do the days your schedule is overloaded with work and family activities that allow you no time to scribble even a sentence leave you feeling vaguely unsettled? On the less chaotic days, when you can sit and tap out at least the rough draft of an article or story leave you feeling more content, even settled? If so, then you have the writing virus, which can be a bit of a benign parasite. The need to write is in you motivating you to write, but when you don’t something is missing it as if bits of you are being devoured.
The easiest cure for this illness is to write. Although I have found contact with other writers, writing workshops and reading well written books is also helpful. It seems simple enough to cure this illness, but we don’t. Instead, we make excuses why we can’t write. Work, prior commitments, family, the dog, etc. the list is endless. There are humorous anecdotes that other writers tell each other about getting ready to write including re-arranging the room to wearing their lucky shirt. While they spend 60 minutes getting ready to write, a family emergency happens which can consists of the dog throwing up on the carpet, a forgotten science project that is due tomorrow, or the smoke alarm going off. It is usually a combination of the three.
The end result is you didn’t write a thing and you feel vaguely guilty and unsatisfied. I should know. I needed a room to write in, an office, far away from the family. In this glorious sanctuary, I could burst out of my chrysalis and become a New York Times bestselling author. The spare bedroom, where all the bursting forth was supposed to happen, became the place all the clothes baskets resided with unfolded clothes. Items that were all their way to Goodwill hid out there too. The children decided they could clean their rooms by putting unwanted items in the spare room. It became an ordeal to hack my way through the debris to just get to the computer. Sigh, not only did I have a full blown case of the writer virus, but mother guilt too. Did I even deserve a room just for writing? On top of that, I was fast developing a case of lack of writing guilt. This involves mentally whipping myself with a wet noodle because I was not writing.
Perhaps a few of you have bemoaned your inability to write properly due to time and space. I remember attending a conference where the speaker commented that she started writing at 4am in the morning every day before her eight children woke up. Eight children, my one whiny teenager and demanding dog could not compete. You have to find time. I pick morning because I am pretty useless after work. Good only for television watching, eating and devouring novels. Find your time. Hank Phillipi Ryan spoke at a recent Indiana RWA meeting about giving up things to write. There really are so many hours in the day. Decide which ones to claim as your own. A word of advice when it comes to families, they don’t understand that you have a virus and must write, so try to find time that doesn’t interfere with them too much.
As for space, give it up, unless you live in some palatial estate. My space is wherever my laptop is. I’ve written in bed, on the couch, in the hair salon, the doctor’s waiting room, even in the car, but I wasn’t driving. Don’t waste dead time. You might not always be able to take your laptop everywhere, despite what the commercials show, but you can take your brain. I highly suggest you take your brain. The conversation you heard between the cashiers at Target has the making of a bit of dialogue. Maybe you spotted a fellow in Wal-mart who would be the perfect sidekick to your villain. Every moment you are gathering material. Other people just exist, you are gathering material to create new people and new worlds, a regular Dr. Frankenstein without all the gross assembling of inanimate body parts.
By this time, you may have a handle on your writing virus, you have scratched out some time. If you have created space wherever you are at or cleaned out that back bedroom. I am busy reclaiming mine, again. This is all good. The one thing you have to make certain to do is spend time with other writers. I should include an aside here and say: you don’t have to like all writers. Hey, they’re people. Some you click with, some you don’t. Some have helpful ideas others have just begun their writer’s journey. The wonderful thing about being in the company of writers besides finding out about agents, contests and publishers, you have a chance to feel normal. No need to explain your virus to disbelievers. It is good to be understood for a change. Other writers can even make you laugh at outrageous tales how their families and friends reacted to their virus. On second thought, maybe it isn’t a disorder, but more like reaching a heightened stage of human development like growing a third eye. Something to consider, but more importantly, something to write about, find your time and space and write.
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