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EUOLogy #11: Psychological Anatomy of a Writer (Part One of Three)

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing—as you might be able to infer, considering the whole ‘novel writing month’ thing the TWG is involved in. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how and why I became a writer, and why it seems like such a good fit for me. (In other words, why it can consume my life so easily—see last week’s column.)

I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions. (Four, actually.) However, in order to understand them, you need to know a few things about me as a person. First off—this is the more obvious of the four attributes—I’m a daydreamer. (I suspect I have this in common with many of you.) In fact, I’m pretty easily distracted by daydreams, ideas, and internal stories. While most children play pretend, I remember taking this to the extreme. Once, in grade school, I decided I was half-crab and insisted on walking sideways all day. The strange thing is, I think I really believed I WAS descended from giant crabs, and that I needed to practice walking sideways in order to better come to understand ‘my people.’

Somewhere during their youths, most kids outgrow this tendency toward the surreal. For me, it just entered stealth mode. I eventually realized that it wasn’t ‘normal’ to tell everyone that your hand was robotic and that you could unscrew your fingers at the joints, but weren’t allowed to show people lest you reveal important government military secrets. So, I stopped telling people about my visions and ideas. It’s better to pretend to fit in. The visions don’t agree, unfortunately. Yesterday, a massive, four-armed monster ripped its way through the walls of my classroom and demanded a sacrifice, otherwise it would eat my teacher. I had to let it take her.

These sorts of daydreams happen pretty much constantly with me. I see strange things in the landscape, and they transform into creatures, stories, action sequences, or stately deities. Not a day goes by that some poor fool in the car next to me, during my drive to school or work, doesn’t get destroyed by alien invaders. Dangerous place, Provo.

Writing is the way I’ve learned to channel this personality quirk. Honestly, if I didn’t have an outlet for all of this—for the strange way my mind likes to take situations and extrapolate them—I think I’d be a little bit afraid for my sanity. Of course, writing has only fed the beast within, and now I’m even MORE prone toward daydreams, and they tend to warp into more cohesive stories. Still, this gives me a lots of fuel for my writing career.

I honestly don’t suspect that I’m alone in this way of perceiving the world. There are probably lots of us grown-up-Calvin types around. They’re the kinds of people who buy fantasy books in the first place. Sometimes I wonder what it would look like if we could see everyone’s daydreams, visions, and idle thoughts. The world would become a crazy, but majestically interesting, place of dinosaurs, aliens, commandos, and wizards. I suspect that even ‘normal’ people spend a bit of their time imagining things as if they were different—though their daydreams probably involve more business suits and less chain mail.

However, in me, the need to get these visions on paper somehow became compulsive, and this is what drove me to seek out writing as a career. Makes sense, right? Anyway, consider yourselves warned—when hanging out with me, you have a sharp likelihood of being eaten, shot, stomped on, or generally involved in some odd vision going on in my head.

However, this tendency toward daydreaming is only one of several attributes that I think turned me into a writer. The second, I think, is a little less obvious—it’s my desire to be a peacemaker. What does this have to do with becoming a fantasy novelist? Well, come back next week and see!

(If you haven’t guessed, attribute trait number three is a love of melodrama. We’ll talk about that in two weeks.)


|   Castellano