Being a writer is like being possessed by a strange (is there any other kind?) beast, who can force you to do its bidding at any hour and any place. This Beast doesn’t care if you’re at your day job, in the middle of a dinner party, rock climbing, giving the baby a bath, or even asleep after a way-too-long, punishing day (at the day job). The Beast wakes you up and drags you from your bed with promises of excitement and the possibility of satisfaction. Yeah. Weird, huh? Honestly, honestly the writer has no control over the Beast. Even desperate pleas of tiredness or not-now’s appease it not!
Why do I call “it” a Beast? What would you call something that drags you out of bed in the proverbial middle of the night? Sue? Kevin? I don’t think so. Actually, I do sometimes call my beast Harold. “Harold” just sounds less intimidating than “Beast.”
Once that Harold (or whatever you call the Beast) grabs you by the throat and forces you down in front of the computer screen, typewriter, pen and paper, you are riveted. You must write whatever Harold tells you to and no breaks are allowed. You are not allowed to eat, answer the phone, clean your kitchen, down an Ibuprofen because your back and neck are killing you from typing away for hours upon hours (even if it is on the same freaking sentence!!!!), or even have a pee. Sometimes, while in the grip of Harold, I find myself forgetting to breathe and suddenly have to gasp for air, as if I were drowning (or being choked). Yay! Whoo-hoo! It is SO way fun being a writer! Sorry, Harold. We humans need to breathe. Not buying it? Look at this way, if I don’t breathe your fun ends. Get it?
Of course, no one else can see this Beast…until you read the writer’s work. Then the Beast is revealed in all its gloriousness (or un-gloriousness, depending). The funny (not really) thing is, there isn’t just one Beast! Oh no. Things couldn’t be that easy, could they? Hell no. Harold is not alone. There are a multitude of Beasts and where Harold leaves off, another is quite happy to take his place. Sadly, sadly the writer’s relationship with the Beast(s) actually begins in fear, runs to excitement, then back to fear and…dependence. It’s all a bit Stockholm Syndrome really. Because you know what happens next? Harold rubs his hands together with glee at this bit! He disappears. Yep. Leaves you hanging. Nasty, bad Harold! So there you are, half way out of a plane, just dangling over the middle of the Sahara (or places much less glamorous, you just never know).
In anguish, you may decide to strike out on your own. Yeah, who needs that freaking Beast anyway? I can do this. Hah! Novice, eh? You can’t go anywhere without the Beast, man. You want to keep it real? Then you have to move with the Beast.
If this all sounds nuts (what? seriously?) then, well it probably IS nuts. But we writers really can’t help it. So read our stuff and have a smidge of pity for us. We may have written this at 7:00 in the morning, after finally dropping off to sleep at 3:00 and left to our Own Devices (sounds totally ominous, doesn’t it?) you begin to jot down this drivel and decide to share it with others and- Crap. Gotta go, Harold is calling…