Thursday, October 14, 2010


Writers are odd creatures. There's no doubt about it. What we do is an odd thing in and of itself. We make up stories. We lie to entertain ourselves. We invent people who don't exist, then go on to have deep, desperate, involved love affairs with them. Often we kill those people in the end.

The interesting thing is that we are unquestionably Something. A group. A writer is a specific type of person. That's not to say we're all identical people, but I don't think I've ever met another writer without being able to identify with them in some way.

I was reading Graham Greene's classic novel The End of the Affair last week. I've seen the movie and really enjoyed it, and I picked it up because, for research purposes for my own novel, I thought it would be a good examination of the mindset of people having an affair (and I was right- it's an excellent novel, and I recommend it if you haven't read it and enjoy a good psychological dissection).

Anyway! I'd forgotten that the main character, Maurice Bendrix, is a novelist. And some of the internal observations the character made throughout the story about the habits and thought processes of writers were so on the money that I laughed out loud in places.

Green, too, obviously thought long and hard about the personality of writers, and used Bendrix to explore this somewhat. The result was uncomfortably close to home in places, but most excellent all the same.

So, if you're looking for solidarity in your necessary isolation, seek other writers. Nobody else in the world can understand the way we think quite as well.

From The End of the Affair, a passage that captured very well the odd alchemy that is our ability to conjure worlds from our subconscious, and how easily that process is knocked by emotional upheaval:

I was trying to write a book that simply would not come. I did my daily five hundred words, but the characters never began to live. So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.

In other news, the latest CompuServe Books and Writers Forum House Party is going off like a frog in a sock- we're rocking Constantinople in 1493, and my characters and Susan's have formed a crazy hot love quadrangle, with no immediate resolution in sight... Check it out here for all the action.


  1. "the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends."

    We *must* be Something; I'll bet all of us can relate to that.

    Another good book about an affair is Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. Oh, and his The Moon and Sixpence also. The latter features artists, who at times seem even more temperamental than writers!

    And yay! for the Houseparty! It's going off like a mad lizard, like fireworks over the Bosphorus, like a bubbling alchemical potion, like...

  2. Did you post that _just_ for me as I struggle to finish my greatly-delayed taxes? LOL! I can SO identify with that quote. I'm sorting business receipts and thinking about nothing but writing...

    I do agree, though, that all writers essentially experience the same things as they write or try to write. Those who haven't done it have no idea about the double lives we lead: the one we inhabit in our skins and the one we live in our heads. There's a certain solidarity writers have when they get together to talk about writing.

  3. Perfect. That is always when I become unblocked -- when I'm doing something completely unrelated, and when I'm determined to put that d*mn book out of my head.

    Go figure. :)