“It will only cost you your soul. No biggy.” – EP Beaumont
This quote came up during a giggle session when EP and I were writing together. I don’t remember the exact context, but the general gist of the conversation was about writing, and the things you do for your craft. I think about this kind of quote a lot when it comes to writing. What is it we who must write give up.
First and most obvious, we give up free time. This isn’t much of a cost for most of us. I mean what would we do with all that time we spend writing anyway? Watch TV? Play video games? Go to the gym? Read? (Ooh, yeah that’s a bit of a hard one, but I can justify reading as “market research” and “recharging” so I don’t give it up.) Then of course there is the workaholic’s creed: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” So yeah, the time we spend writing is time we don’t spend doing all those other things that non-writers do. This isn’t much of a stretch though because writing calls to us stronger than all those things. It’s not like we have to give them up completely anyway, just cut back.
The next thing that many of us give up are relationships. I’m not talking about your wife or husband or kids. You’ll make the time for them. It’s the other relationships that slip into the darkness when you aren’t looking. How many of your friends are non-writers? How many times do you go out in a month for a non-writing related event? At lunch do you chat with your co-workers or your characters? I recently have been trying to spend more time with my co-workers during break times and have found it very difficult. I don’t know what to talk about because I don’t watch much TV or go to many movies. I’m not versed in sports. I don’t scrap book. There is very little to talk about that isn’t work related. I’ve been learning a lot about the latest versions of reality TV. I don’t know how awful this is in terms of my life. It would be nice to have friends at work, but I was never interested in those things anyway and doubt I would be any more skilled in talking about them if I hadn’t turned to writing.
We who are compelled to write give up a certain amount of sanity. We’re not talking about becoming “off our rockers” kind of crazy, but we do have a tendency toward obsessive behaviors. We talk to people living in our heads. We have whole conversations about these people and the frustrations they visit on us during our writing hours. I’ve been caught, more than once I have to admit, acting out a difficult conversation between two or more characters. I’m pretty sure “committed” was a thought in the minds of those who saw me. We can let our emotions be ruled (within certain bounds) by the actions and thoughts of imaginary people. Our dreams come when we are not asleep, and we like it that way.
For nine years, I worked as a secretary for a psychiatric unit of a hospital. When I started recognizing some of my own behaviors in the clients I began to panic. I turned to one of the counselors and asked what it would take to get a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Naturally, she asked me why I wanted to know and I told her. When she was done laughing she said the simple fact that I asked would be enough to prevent the diagnosis. Further, I know that the voices in my head are in my head, the imaginary people a just that and it’s all just my imagination. Mental illness, as opposed to writing, does not allow you that kind of certainty.
We give up privacy. I’m not talking about paparazzi in your bathroom. You lay it all out there when you write a story. Your heart, your mind, your soul. If your story is to live, it will take a piece of each of those to do it. With each story you are taking the most intimate parts of yourself and exposing them to the world. The privacy that others take for granted, we give up willingly.
“It will only cost you your soul. No biggy.” -EP Beaumont
No biggy indeed. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will go on pouring my life into my stories. I will fill them with my soul. I will give them everything that I can. Because in the end, they will give back more than they ever took. They won’t give back only to me. They’ll pass it on to let others play in my life. I give my free time, my relationships and my soul to the art of writing. May they be enough.