THE WRITER’S LIFE
My illness is a repulsive condition, in that people move away, scared. It’s both a personal and public thing, like my writing. Depression and alcoholism are hard to understand, respectively for the sufferer and those around them. It’s difficult to articulate for many and even though I have the means, I find it tough. Yet I write a blog, about writing, depression and the hangover from alcoholism.
I still drink. I smoke weed. But the drug which keeps life at bay, is writing: Like words from a syringe.
When writers write a story, they inhabit it: We have to be there, imagining everything around us, so that we know where everything and everyone is. I have read manuscripts which are brilliant, but for one thing. For example, if a character stands up in the narrative, it sort of jars the reader when that character was already standing.
Dialogue can be a minefield: Sometimes a character will need to speak for a long time, so they do so in paragraphs. For the writer, it’s a simple matter of opening each new paragraph with quote marks and only closing them at the end of the speech. Unless the character does anything besides speaking, in which case the quote needs to end, the character acts through narrative, then continues to speak. There are many pitfalls.
We as writers don’t need to go into minute detail but a few words of direction are needed here and there. We inhabit our worlds as directors on set with characters. Like life, it’s a balancing act.
As writing and life have become one and the same for me, so they meld more and help me understand what’s going on in my head. All of the examples above of how a writer directs all around them is how my particular mental illness deals with the world around me.
Writing is what makes my life tolerable. I don’t think of my studio as a flat where I live, or an office where I work. It’s an office where I live. As a flat, it’s a bit shit: A small living room and an even smaller kitchen, with a toilet and shower room in the communal hallway. As an office, it’s the best ever: Comfy furniture, big TV, DVDs, music, en-suite kitchen. There’s an off-suite toilet, like in any place of work and this one comes with a shower room. It’s a matter of perception.
The only thing lacking in this office is somewhere to sleep. I sleep on the floor and that’s why it’s called The Studio: where I work and live, which are both the same. It’s a coping mechanism; It tells me that what I’m doing with my life is worthwhile, because for as long as I’m writing, I’m in control and I’m creating things for others to enjoy, or be repulsed by (depending on the genre I’m working in).
The gig economy is keeping me busy and amused, at least with bids. Current projects in discussion are writing a biography for a fictional romance author; travelogues for a website in the vein of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so effectively tourist guides to fictional planets; and an open letter to alcohol for a blog. It’s competitive out there but I don’t want to undersell myself. I may bid low on the odd job which looks like fun, but it’s another balancing act. In the case of the letter to alcohol, I’ve bid as low as I’m allowed. It’s something I can add value to. I may get beaten on price but it should be pretty clear to the vendor that I have the credentials and the experience.
I really don’t know what to do with my latest story, “Echo Beach”: I’m my own harshest critic but even I’m finding it difficult to find fault with this one. So now I need to decide whether to just publish it for the exposure, or sell it. It’s a nice problem to have.
Now that I’m able to live the life of the writer, by inhabiting it, life is easier to deal with. But it’s because I’m one step removed.
Like an addiction, it’s a life sentence.