I am convinced the burden of the writer—or what it’s like to be me—is a very real phenomenon. No doubt, there are far weightier burdens in life than that of an author’s. Nevertheless, every hobby, passion, and profession comes with its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Writers are no exception to that rule.
A few weeks ago, I became conscious of the burden of the writer—not that I am a Writer with a capital W.
The Writer’s Plight
It was too close to midnight for comfort. I was sitting in bed, hunched over a pad of paper, pen in hand, writing frantically. My task completed, I discarded the pen and pad on the floor and reached for my bedside lamp.
With a soft “click” darkness enveloped me.
I snuggled further into my mound of blankets and I closed my eyes, ready for slumber to overtake me. A contented sigh escaped my upturned lips. Sleep at last.
Suddenly, my eyelids popped open and drowsiness eluded me once more. I tried to make the words go away.
I really did.
However, from past experience, I knew it was no use, they would play jungle gym in my cranium until I would give them life.
This time, a dejected sigh passed my lips.
I turned over and reached for my bedside lamp once more.
With the same soft “click”, the light turned back on. My pupils protested by blinking furiously against the luminous glow. I reached over and picked up my pad and pen.
I would have no rest until I penned my new idea.
This my friends is the burden of the writer.
A Library in my Mind
At this point, I am convinced there is a library in my brain. My most creative pieces are done “upstairs” preferably when I am unable to jot them on paper such as on walks or while driving.
I wish I could retrieve some of my “brain” novellas.
They are masterful.
Alas, what I manage to recapture is pitiful in comparison.
The remainder of said writing occurs at the most inconvenient of times as well, apparently, preferably at midnight when my body screams for refreshing sleep.
Words—to me—are like fairies which flood my brain and pester me until I write.
Allow me a better comparison. Words are like guerilla fighters who stumble from the shadows of my soul and hijack my prefrontal cortex until I comply with their demands.
I would prefer to sleep at midnight, not sit in an awkward position, my hand trying to keep up with the verbal tsunami in my head.
Write, write, write until I feel empty, my masters finally contended—for now.
In the silence which ensues, I can take a deep cleansing breath, find my bearings, and resume my life. Maybe I can even catch some much needed ZZZ’s.
Occasionally, what I took as the ceasing of the verbal onslaught is, in fact, the eye of the storm. Another downpour is coming.
The Pompous Writer
When out and about, I have been accused of being “stuck up” because I didn’t acknowledge someone’s presence with a reciprocal wave. Sorry to disappoint. However, I was in fact in the process of writing the sequel to War and Peace and I didn’t see you. Nothing personal, trust me.
It is not pompousness which causes me to be somewhat blind to others.
If you require an acknowledgment from me, please follow the following instructions: make sure to plant yourself squarely in my path, make exaggerated motions, or belt a loud “woohoo.” Anything less means I probably will probably gloss you over—my brain, as the deceitful circus master, whispers you are part of the scenery—and continue my internal monologue.
What some see as snobbery is, in fact, a display of the burden of the writer, not a rude attempt to discount your existence.
My offsprings are well aware of this shortcoming and have resourcefully resorted to calling me by my first name rather than the more traditional “mama” when I have repeatedly failed to answer their queries. This method is quite effective—and works beautifully —as a hearty “Florence” from the beings who share my DNA most often does manage to bring me out of my revery. Anything else registers as white noise and is, therefore, promptly ignored.
Please, don’t assume it is pretention or slight which keeps me engrossed in my world—or which keeps me attentive past my bedtime.
The Burden of the Writer
I have come to accept my idiosyncrasies—and honestly — —I don’t know any different since I have authored “heady” novels since childhood.
I believe I have single-handedly written a library worthy of the famed Alexandria—if not in quality (who am I kidding right?), at least, in volume. I happen to be quite prolific.
The thing is, I write neither for fame nor accolades. Until recently, I did not even write for an audience. Apparently, I was content being both the author and the consumer of my novels.
All this to say, I don’t know if this “burden” is common to all writers. It is however common to me. While this “burden” can—and is—inconvenient, if not aggravating, I have come to accept “what is” and even—dare I say—to embrace it?
I am wired to write and—synchronously—live my life. Therefore, I can choose to see this situation as a burden—which it can be—or a gift.
I elect to call this peculiarity a “gift.” Even gifts come with downsides, yet, we would not have it any other way.