My name is Steve, and I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to writing.
I first noticed this problem when I was young. I wasn’t a terribly social child. I did my fair share of playing and cavorting and running around, but more often than not I was indoors, forming armies of G.I. Joe action figures and making plans to take over the living room (or, on our rare away missions, selecting who would be best qualified to capture and enslave my cousin’s enemy My Little Pony force). I used to lay and stare at the ceiling, imagining AT-ATs crossing overhead, their magnetic clamps allowing them to traverse the top of the world before they parachuted troops down to the unsuspecting bed below.
It got even worse after I purchased my red box edition of Dungeons & Dragons via mail. My friend Damian knew how to play, and though we never actually got around to a game we planned a lot of them, mapping out dungeons and plotting adventures, deciding which wicked monsters to throw at the hapless heroes and what treasures they’d discover there. I kept plotting out D&D adventures on into junior high, eventually replacing that obsession with plotting out my own comic books. I tried my hand at drawing, but found it wasn’t really my talent, so I focused on writing the tales of Demonsbane, a massive force of heroes (with largely supernatural powers) who tirelessly hunted the demons of the Abyss as they spread out across the world wreaking chaos and havoc.
But wait Steve, you might ask, I thought you didn’t start writing until high school? Well, that’s true. I’m just giving you some back story.
You see, in high school I discovered this thing called “reading”. Weird, I know. I was a bit of a late bloomer in this regard, but around my junior year I was devouring Tanith Lee, Clive Barker and Stephen King like there was no tomorrow. I wrote my first short story (a piece I can’t even remember the title of, but it involved a guy going ape-shit in an office and his secretary eventually killing him with a rotary phone…highly “literate” stuff, let me tell you), and then my second short story (“Cathedral”, a 40-page epic about a couple of women hunting monsters in an old downtown church). Those stories were terrible, but it felt good to create.
We all need a release of some sort. Things get pent up inside of us, pressures, anxieties, extra energy we can’t otherwise expel. Lots of people let these energies take shape in their imaginations, but after a time just “imagining” things isn’t enough. They have to be put to paper.
Let me say that again. They HAVE to be put to paper. And once you start figuring that out, once you start writing for pleasure and not for profit (though, if you’re lucky, you won’t have to make that distinction after a while), then you’ll be itching to write, you have to write. It becomes an obsession. You figure out a way to work it into your routine, and when that doesn’t work you find another way. Unlike your obsession with smoking or grain alcohols or searching for the latest news on Justin Bieber’s hair, this is a good obsession, a healthy obsession. And when you’re in the throw of it, when you’re charging ahead with that story and the momentum has you, when you can’t wait to find out what happens next and you start muttering your character’s dialogue as you write it, when you find yourself freaking out over one of your character’s losses or regrets and feel yourself reveling in their joy and successes…well, then you know you’ve found something special.
And when you’re not writing, you’re thinking about it. You can’t watch movie trailers without coming up with an idea for a story. You can’t read a book without saying “great imagery, I should steal that” or “I love how they’ve developed this character, I need to work on that”, or “I never realized Victorian time travel tiger hunting ninja novels could be so much fun”, then you know you’ve got a problem you’re lucky to have.
You’re a writer. Welcome. We’re all loonies here.
I just finished the rough draft of Vampire Down, Book 7 in my Blood Skies series, and it was a struggle. Three false starts, not a lot of direction, and I hit the dreaded wall at about the 75% mark, which is probably the most horrible place to hit a wall, because when you do it at that point you realize you didn’t really have much story to begin with, that you’re been writing in circles, and that you may be better off just scrapping the entire thing. But I didn’t. I re-imagined the book, re-worked it, wrote a completely new 80 page opener, and Voila!, things fell together. I knew what had to happen, and what had to be fixed.
It’s a good thing, too, because I wasn’t going to get any sleep until I knew the story was all right. I was crabby, moody and irritable (more so than usual, and that’s saying a lot). I wondered if the book would end the way I wanted it to, if I’d be happy with it, if my readers would be happy with it, if the characters were getting shortchanged or if they were receiving the treatment they deserved. I still wonder those things.
And now that the rough draft is done and the “work” portion of the process begins (though edits are rewarding in and of themselves, albeit in a different way), I look ahead to the next project. Like a junkie I want to feel those highs and lows again, I want to ride that roller coaster. I want all of the frustrations and anxieties because I know in the end they’ll be replaced by elation and joy, that my confusion and worries will be wiped away by a moment of revelation, a light bulb igniting my otherwise shadowy brain, allowing it to come to life for just a moment as I hammer out the words uncontrollably, 2000 words in a day, then 3000, then 5000, until I race across that finishing line with so much momentum I practically vault into the next project.
Eventually that energy fades. Nothing so powerful and glaring can be sustained. There are periods of darkness, lulls in the process when you can’t think of anything, when no idea is a good one, when you feel you don’t have time or energy for the challenge.
But we live through those. We don’t try too hard, having faith that the imagination engines will start again, that they’ll sputter to life at the most untoward and likely inconvenient time, at a board meeting, on a drive to work, while you’re at the playground or the lake. The thought will nag at you, eat at you, and before you know it it’s on your back, a monkey with claws, whispering in your ear until you feed it, feed that drive, that need.
Let’s face it: writers are the worst addicts there are. And I’m proud to nurture my addiction.
My name is Steve, and I’m addicted to writing.
Steve has a problem. Ok, he has many problems. Learn more about them at his website.