Monday, August 24, 2009

Hearing Voices

I have always known I would be a writer. Sure I spent many many years questioning the prospects of very learning to read, but writing has a lot more to do with dreaming than spelling, and is as natural to me as breathing. I have met extreamly smart and entirely unimaginative people, so I know it is a possible condition. I just don’t understand how anyone could not day dream. I have been entertaining myself with complicated and whimsical stories since I was in dipers. If I wanted to stop, I don’t think I would know how.

My brain doesn’t have an off switch, it can’t just stop working. I always have to think about something. Sometimes I think about reality – the things happening around me at the exact second they are happening. But my life is kind of dull, so my reality rarely demands my complete attention. Often I think up parrellel realities for myself, things that could have or may happen to me. I enjoy planning things, even if I know they aren’t going to happen, and in genearl I have thought through most options to a situation long before they arrive simply to keep myself from getting to board.

But even my non-reality isn’t that exciting. I’m really not that intersting of a person, even in my fanticies. So I spend a lot of time thinking about other people. People who don’t actually exist, but who have interesting lives. I had a lot of imaginary friends as a kid, and unlike most people, I never grew out of them. I’m 30 years old, and I still have a lot of imaginary friends. They are interesting people, and I enjoy thinking about the things they can do and the lives they can lead. Always keeping a fraction of my mind in my own personal fiction tends to make my reality a little more interesting.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with writing. After spending countless hours obsessing about some new fictisions friend of mine, I would get the idea that I should write my musings down. But I would wait until after I had thought through every detail of a fictision characters life before lifting my pen, so my stories were always overly complex and didn’t make sence to anyone but me. And lets be honest, the making up the stories part was more fun than the writing it down part. So I lived my life, with one foot in reality and one in fiction, always knowing that someday the fiction would find a way to break out and I’d succom to the life of a writer.

In April of 2008, one of the voices in my head started talking a bit louder than the others. She was interesting, and I liked listening to her. I figured at some point I might actually want to write her story down, so I desided to make myself a few notes. I figured I would write maybe 10 or 15 pages of pros and an outline. Just enough to remember what I was thinking about, so I could go back and write the full story at a later date. But as soon as I enpowered this voice with an outlet, so started screaming at me nonstop. Then her friends started chiming in and I had this choras of voices yelling at my 24/7.

I finished the first draft on my novel after only four months. Four months after that, I finished the fifth draft. I wrote an average of three to five hours a day, while working full time, and attempting to maintain the semblance of a social life. I have an author friend who told me he keeps a notepad with him at all times, and he always stops what every he’s doing to write himself a note when he hears one of his characters speaking to him. If he’s driving, he will just pull over to the side of the road and start writing. Hearing this the only think I could think of was, how does he manage to live his own life?

If I gave my characters that kind of power over me, I would stop being me completely. I never worry about forgetting what I hear in my mind and not being able to write it down later. I figure if it is important enough to the story, my characters are going to scream at me loud enough and long enough that I’ll have no choice but to listen. When I was writing 3-5 hours a day, I was still playing each scene in my head two or three times before I got around to writing it down.

Lately my internal fiction has been a lot quiter. I started writing my memoir back in January, just after I handed my manuscript off to beta readers. I’m currently about 40,000 words into the rough draft of my memoir. It’s shaping out to be a fairly interesting book. I’m a bit of a nut case, so my life story may actually entertain a few people. But there is nothing overly compulsive about writing non-fiction. The characters in this book are all real people, who are walking around and speaking for themselves without any help from me. They aren’t hiding away in my sub-consious, banging on the door and begging for a way out. I do want to finish me memoir, but while the longest I went without writing while working on my novel was 48 hours. I can easily go a full month without even thinking about my memoir.

So hear is my new delema. I currently have copies of my manuscript in the hands of half a dozen agents who are waiting to reject me. I am half way through the first draft of my next project, and last night I heard a new voice in my head. I think her name is Emily, but perhaps that will change. I don’t know to much about her yet, at most the first two chapters of a new novel. But she’s talking to me, and if I break down and pick up a pen and start voicing her words, I know she’s gonna start screaming. I have no idea what this next book is going to be about, but I feel it knocking on my mind. It wants me to write it, and a big part of me just wants to scream SHUT UP!

I like the freedom of not writing 24/7. I’ve read/listened to more than a dozen books in the past month alone. I’ve spent time with friends. I’ve spoken to my husband. I’ve done everything I can to keep my crazies at bay. And I’ve tinkered with some narrative non-fiction just to keep my writing skills from getting to rusty. Can’t this last a little longer? Can I keep this new onslot of imaginary friends silent for a few months or weeks longer? Or am I going to go home tonight and bang out the first three chapters of my second novel and simply accept the idea that I’m no longer myself. That this chick named Emily is going to enhabit the majority of my mind for the next couple of months until I finish telling her story.

Am I completely insane? Or is my life just really boaring and I’m attempting to keep myself entertained?

1 comment:

Stephanie Faris said...

Hey, if it's making us happy, then that's all that mattered. That's what I figured out! Someone once said that most of us start writing because we figure if we didn't, we'd have to admit all these weird voices and storylines running through our head are actually something clinical!!!