Lily Tomlin as “Ernestine” The Operator – Laugh In TV Series 1968-1973
Writers must be a magnet for weird. Or perhaps they just use their experiences as reference material more readily than other professions. Once, I went to drop a letter at the post office drop box. That’s when seemingly out of nowhere I suddenly become aware of a man standing near me, just feet away from the mailbox I needed to access. He was a pale fifty-something man, hunched over with thinning stringy hair combed over his misshapen head in polyester blue pants, dirt brown teeth, and a black and white RUN DMC t-shirt on. “OVER MY DEAD BODY!” he screams as he rubs his hands over and over one another as if washing with soap. “You know I did NOT start all this! The others were watching and they started it. You know I’m right!” His eyes narrowed into tiny slits as he looked accusingly at……at who? I looked left. Then right. No one! Great!
Who ya talkin’ to?! I think but don’t dare say out loud.
“Tell her!” he barks at me. Fearing for my safety, I nod my head in agreement and turn to the left where he’s still arguing vociferously and non-intelligently with someone who clearly has an invisibility cloak around them. So I look at where he’s looking and say to no one in particular I say, “It’s true, he didn’t START this. There’s no way. “He was WITH ME! We both were at a Run DMC concert.”
Oh no! Now you’ve done it! I think to myself. Prepare to die. I laugh nervously.
He busts up laughing. He says, “See WOMAN! I told you the truth. It couldn’t have been me. She just vouched for me.” Alrighty now! I’ll just slip this little card in the mail and skeedaddle. I fake a smile, wave, and make tracks. I really am not sure I have that much more to say to Mr. Crazy and Ms. Invisible anyway.
Sometimes writing feels like this. When you write, who ya talkin’ to?
Is it the critic who lives in your head? Is it an ex-lover/friend/spouse that you silently scream to: Are you reading this? Are you hearing me now?
Is it somebody specific you hope will somehow glean insight on just how incredibly talented you are? Someone you seek validation from? Or is it ulterior in motive–dribs and drabs of truth dripping out in your fiction in order to speak revenge, love, truth, or perhaps memory to someone else? Perhaps it’s just a quest to write popular to reach masses of fans. Or is just random ramblings and musings aimed at no one in particular?
Who ya’ talkin’ to?
Do you seek a huge audience? Do you wish for fame and recognition? A paycheck? Or do you write just for you—for therapy, to chronicle life, a digital observation of life preserved forever in cyberspace.
I’ve been told and even advised by others you should write FOR you. Hogwash! You should write TRUE TO YOU, but if you’re writing with the purpose of wanting to a bona fide writer (published) you’re ultimately going to have to break into the business of self-promotion a little bit. That’s hard because writers vary in mood from moments of narcissism to self-loathing. How do you promote something you love one moment and feels lacking the next?
All writers write to a certain degree to be admired for their work. Paid writing is a perk. Fame is what you make it—a blessing or a curse. Since I have neither yet, I will refrain from advising.
I will just say this about writing. The process can feel really weird. Because when you are writing, it’s just you, your fertile imagination, and your deft fingers on a keyboard. The audience is still in the future, imagined, but still unseen.
Writing sometimes makes me feel like I am the Jodi Foster character in the movie Contact; you’re broadcasting a signal into deep space just wondering, can anyone hear me, anyone at all? Here you are perched in front of a keyboard, but your head is deep in another place, another time, another persona even. And out of memory, or perhaps out of nothing, you are creating something with mere words.
You’re here, but not here.
It’s weird–this surreal place that defies the boundaries of time. It’s unnerving. It can be disturbing. And then you finish your work. You hit send or publish or whatever it is you do to distribute your work to the masses.
Now the ball is in their court. What will people think? That you’re genius? Disturbed? Clever? Boring? Will strangers read it? What is their first impression of you? Will family and friends wonder if you are okay?
You may even pass by some of these readers over the next few days in real life and talk normal to them. After all, they may hear voices in their head too and have weird thoughts—they just choose not to write about them.
I say, go ahead. Be brave. Write it all down. Transcribe your weird experiences into a book and call it fiction. After all, you’re writing thoughts and stories—it’s not as if you’re not baring your naked body all over social media to be shared world-wide. No, it’s just the essence of who you are, the core of your self-esteem. Besides, what’s a little trampling criticism, or even complete unacknowledgement ever done to anyone? You’ll be just fine!
Here’s the naked truth: Writers are often confident outward but inwardly they are vulnerable to all sorts of crippling insecurities, hence they must write! OK, kidding….kind of.
So why did I talk to Mr. Run DMC that day? Perhaps like me, he just needed to know someone is listening. Maybe he is where once-sane writers end up when they don’t meet their goals, so perhaps a certain amount of mercy is called for here. For a brief moment, we needed one another, though for different reasons. He needed understanding. I needed fresh material.
May you write TRUE TO YOU today.