I confess there are days I don’t feel like writing. And way back when, if I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t. It was always there, patiently waiting for me to sit down, take a deep breath, and put my fingers on the keyboard (though when I first started writing all I had was pencil and paper). The stories were my secret place, a place to relax and unwind while I did dastardly things to my characters. No one cared but me. And I do enjoy the suffering and mayhem swirling around in my mind.
But they were my stories…unshared.
Things have changed. It’s as if the characters know they’re more important than merely a hobby I pursue in my spare time. I have given them flight by publishing, and the voices won’t be contained or pushed back into the closet in the deep recesses of my brain. The characters (and their stories) want out! The characters are screaming for me to type just a few more words, to complete a conversation or flesh out the surroundings in which I have placed them. They don’t like to be frozen in a moment, sometimes in mid-sentence. Who can blame them? Real life doesn’t happen that way. We don’t find ourselves stuck at an instant when we’re scolding the children, walking the dog, driving to the store—or myriads of things that claim our day.
The casual hobby has now morphed into work, albeit something I thoroughly enjoy. I can set my own hours, be my own boss and I don’t have to get dressed if I don’t feel like it. I don’t have to worry about getting to work on time, fighting traffic, or getting chewed out by an employer who is critical and doesn’t pay me what I think I’m worth.
But now, the stories are yelling at me…
Of course, there is a flip-side to all the generous perks that go along with being self-employed. Now that I’m the employer, I have to chew myself out for being late to work, for being distracted by the traffic of kids and dogs that often run amok, and for wondering every day if anyone will actually read what I write. Perhaps, I could simply be a music composer or a starving artist in a garret who doesn’t become famous until after I’m dead. Of course, being a puppet master who regularly thinks up dreadful things to do to perfectly good characters, I can picture myself lying dead on a chaise while clutching a masterpiece in my hand. Thankfully, the tome I’d be clutching would be nothing more than a shiny disc that fits into my computer—but you get the idea.
And all the while, the characters are clamoring to be heard, and it goes something like this:
“I’ve been standing here for the last three days. How about some food and a potty break?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! The heroine just slapped my face and told me I was lower than dirt—and you haven’t decided how I should respond? Really?
“Hello?” Ping…ping…ping. “Hello….? Are you at the keyboard? If you aren’t going to get me out of the cold, could you at least give me a warm blanket and a fire before you leave?”
“Hey! I see you over there eating nachos and watching Pride and Prejudice. I won’t go away. You left me to drown in a flooded creek and if you don’t finish the scene, I”ll–I’ll drip on your carpet!”
Now, I could just ignore them, but how much fun would that be?