The Writer Cactus.

The implication being, of course, that writers are prickly, water efficient, and can bear excruciating heat during the day and frigid cold at night. I’m pretty much none of those things except sharp so maybe the better analogy would be the writer porcupine. Or perhaps the writer Cuisinart.

Most of the writers I know are sensitive people. I think you’d have to be a somewhat sensitive individual to sling effective words. If you can’t suck the emotional marrow from the world around you, how are you supposed to slap it onto a page and make others buy into it? You’re dealing with manipulation of the mind and heart here. A wooden, hollow character or scene means people don’t invest in the story and then they don’t finish the story.

It takes a certain awareness of the human condition to tug on the heart strings like that. Authors communicate ALL THE FEELS because THE FEELS are what band people together. Good books bridge a writer to a reader through the highs and lows of a shared story. Thus, the writer’s ability to effectively communicate THE FEELS is a facet of sensitivity.

Which means writers are complex and moody and just fucking difficult sometimes.

Acknowledging this, I feel I must prepare the world for this army of sensitive people. Those who live with us already know THE RULES but those who don’t – well, you’re lucky sons of bitches, man. However, you may one day cross paths with the odd, twitchy creature known as the writer, so consider this a mini-guide to survival.

Because I care. Hillary cares, guys. Remember that when I run for World Overlord next time.

THE FEEDING AND CARE OF YOUR CACTUS-WRITER-CUISINART.

1. YOUR WRITER MIGHT BE CRYING WHILE (S)HE IS DRAFTING. THIS MIGHT BE OKAY.

Might be. If you see flames, boils, dead kittens, or a broken computer – these are all signs things are NOT okay. Approach with beer, chocolate, hugs (if you dare getting that close) and/or a bribery Porsche. However, if she’s typing along, shoulders hunched, tears running down her face and the fingers are flying, it’s probably cool. In this circumstance, approach with caution because:

2. YOUR WRITER WILL BE SO INVESTED IN THE STORY, IF YOU INTERRUPT (S)HE MIGHT VLAD-THE-IMPALER YOU.

You see the tears and maybe hear the cursing. Or maybe you just passed by the office and saw the writer looking frustrated. You stop and knock on the door — lightly of course because a writer in its natural habitat might be drunk — and the writer’s head turns around on her shoulders like the Exorcist chick. Lava spews from her nostrils. Acid spit rains across the floor to ruin the carpet because YOU DARED TO INTERRUPT. Your intentions were good, but intentions don’t mean anything when the writer is in The Groove. Don’t fuck with the groove. It’s the sacred place where word sprints are born.

3. YOUR WRITER HAS MUTATED. (S)HE CAN EXIST ON COFFEE ALONE.

Balderdash, you say, but it is scientifically proven in a world renown research facility (my basement) by world renowned scientists (my basset hounds) that a writer can perform all basic life functions fueled only by coffee and rage. This can continue for days; the writer consumes caffeine, the mug goes to that place known as THE MUG GRAVEYARD at the back of her desk. Mind you, this particular mutation is not necessarily GOOD for the writer as it’ll inevitably lead to a nervous breakdown and a permanent twitch, but you can spare your writer by delivering actual food once or twice a day. Do this quietly as to not disturb the writer and you may actually get to leave the writing sanctum with all of your phalanges intact.

4. THE WRITER IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES – AKA THE WRITER HAS A NEW BOOK IDEA.

The writer’s muse is a funny creature. It tends to come in bursts and then take off for a long damned time (usually about the time book two on her contract is due to be written and she has no fucking clue what she’s going to write about.) As such, when the muse is present, the writer froths at the mouth and sings the song of her people. She talks about cave trolls and super spies and illicit romances between badgers and toasters. She rants and raves at you, sharing her ideas in a frenzy of half-formed sentences and barnyard noises. This is totally normal. The best course of action is to nod, smile, and look as enthusiastic as possible. Anything else and the writer senses your hesitation and may stab you in the forehead with whatever sharp thing happens to be on hand.

5. THE WRITER SEEKS PRAISE. ALSO KNOWN AS, “DANGER. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.”

The writer has shared her word baby with you. It’s a little lumpy and only has one eye, but you can see the baby shape there. Sure, the fingers and toes are webbed, and the conjoined twin thing is creepy, but the writer set out to make a baby and a baby she made. Your job as the recipient of said baby is to congratulation the writer on making the baby period. Do this first as it acknowledges the tears, the coffee binges, and the sweat. Then, when the inevitable question of the baby’s BEAUTY comes out, word your criticism carefully.

Think of it this way – Joe at work has an ugly daughter. The kid is a cross between a PMSing Medusa and the ass end of a dead donkey. When Joe shows you pictures of his kid, your immediate reaction is to recoil, but because you like Joe and want Joe to continue to like you — Joe’s the best bowler on your team and you could really use him on Tuesday nights — you say, “She’s adorable!” Unless you are a crit partner (and by crit partner I mean one of those sacred individuals we -allow- to rip our work to shreds) pretend our book is Joe’s kid. Pretend you want Joe on your bowling team. Even if all you can see is the alien baby with the extra arms and slime green retinas, by all that is holy PRETEND.

6. THE WRITER IS BETWEEN PROJECTS. ELYSIUM.

There comes a time that the writer is not writing. Perhaps it is only a day, or two days. Perhaps it’s only an hour or two. Whatever the case, you will notice an absolute change in your writer. This is not a cause for concern but a reason to rejoice. The trash is removed from the writer’s desk. The writer showers more regularly. There is not a single mug to be found in THE MUG GRAVEYARD. The writer has an interest in food that is not coffee. The writer actually ventures past the threshold of her office and is willing to engage in adult conversation without any of that ranting and raving and plot-spouting. The writer is approachable and pleasant and makes overtures of spending time with you. It is quite alright to cherish this time. Take your writer out to dinner. Let your writer take you out to dinner. Watch movies and frolic in fields. I wouldn’t necessarily risk the fingers-near-mouth thing still, but for the most part, the writer is at ease. Enjoy it and when the inevitable glazed-eyes and shivering starts — telltale signs of writing withdrawal — batten down the hatches. The dark times are a-coming.

3 thoughts on “The Writer Cactus.

  1. Pingback: The Care and Feeding of Your Beloved Writer | Violet Graves

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