Monday, May 11, 2009

Occupational Hazards

Quote of the Day: Shirley Hazzard, on the Occupational Hazards of being a writer:
It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.

The occupational hazards of writing are something my writer buddies and I discuss frequently. Every job, hobby, or past time comes with its own unique quirks. Writing, I think, comes with exceptional hazards. Here are a few of the ones I have experienced.

1. An irrational phobia of a blank page or computer screen. I must have wordage...I love the look of a blank page for about 30 seconds...then I must fill it up!

2. Never being able to simply read a book without my internal editor occasionally popping up to scream, “There’s a mistake!! I saw a mistake!!” or “How can she get away with all those adverbs? My crit group would shred my manuscript if I had all this stuff in there!”

3. Never being able to take simple pleasure in going to a bookstore or library. Sure I can still browse the shelves and choose the perfect gem to borrow or add to my collection. And of course bookstores and libraries are still my favorite places in the world to be. But somewhere in the back of mind is the unavoidable daydream of seeing MY book on the shelves next to those I am looking at. And while I am browsing for something to read, my internal researcher is checking up on what’s out there, who is publishing what, what titles are filed under what genre, and a million other things other than simply finding a book to read.

4. Never being able to answer the question, “So what do you do?” without getting strange looks, eye rolls, and a few dozen ridiculous, weird, or obnoxious questions, story ideas, requests for you to write something for them, or the ever popular “oh yeah, I’d do that too if I had the time.”

5. Never being able to open your email inbox or physical mailbox without at least a slight flop of the stomach or skip of the heart…after all, a publishing contract complete with an advance check for $25,000 or an offer of representation could be sitting there just waiting for you. Right? :D

6. The danger of being considered mentally slow or just plain weird because you have the tendency to stare off into space at odd moments or walk around the house muttering to yourself about (or to) fictional people that no one else believes exist (but we know better, right?) ;-)

7. The danger of your significant other jump to the wrong conclusion when they come across all those sticky notes that you leave all over the house that say things like “be sure to hide the murder weapon where no one can find it” and “break up after huge fight over how to say pall bearer” (this one actually happened to me – my husband saw that note on the fridge and said, “We are breaking up over pall bearers?” Poor guy…I still crack up over that one. :D

So how about you? What occupational hazards have you come across since entering the wonderful and strange world of writing?

This is one of the hazards of trying to write at my house...his name is Cyrus...and he would prefer that I spend my time petting him, not writing. Or reading for that matter. He sees an open book of any type and this is what he does. :D


Wendy said...

I hear you loud and clear on #'s 4 & 6 & 7.

sticky notes, eye rolls and staring off into space. :D

~ Wendy

Scott said...

First - my main occupational hazard is my cat Squeaky. She has to be in my lap while I type. Her tail has deleted things a time or two. It wasn't pretty, not at all.

#2 is #1 on my list. I hate that I can't turn off my internal editor. It takes a tad bit of the joy out of reading.

A Cluttered Desk - I'm a note taker. I write notes on anything I can and pile them up on my printer/scanner . . . until I need the scanner and then I organize the many notes.

Making Significant Other Mad because you're too absorbed in writing to cook dinner. Trust me, after a few days of this, things can get really ugly. Then again, I lost ten pounds in a week, so there was some bonus to the situation. I'm just saying . . .

There are so many others as well. Thanks for the post, Michelle, it made me LOL!


Michelle McLean said...

Wendy, this is one reason I love meeting other writers so much...because it is very nice to know I'm not alone! :D

And Scott, I can't believe I didn't think of the desk! (seeing as how I currently can't see more than 3 inches of the surface of it and my printer is completely buried!) And my poor kids live off of cereal if I am really deep in writing mode...luckily they don't seem to mind :D My husband is also pretty good on the me not cooking thing (probably because I'm a terrible cook). The laundry on the other fact, the other day I actually made the effort to get everything washed and put away and he tore the house apart because he couldn't find his clothes. I told them they had been put away in the dresser. He looked totally confused for a second and then said "Well it never occurred to me to look there...they are always in the basket." I decided it was pretty bad when your husband is actually searching under beds and couches before trying the dresser, so, *ahem* I am attempting to do better on the laundry front :D

Kat Harris said...

Number 6. Yeah. That would be me.

Number 2 has all but ruined books for me as well.


dellgirl said...

Yes. Yes. And yes! Number 2 is me -in all caps. The odd thing about that is, I know how easy it is for a finger to slip without my noticing. There are places I have visited and regreted that I could not go back and delete because of a glaring typo. Yet, I cringe when I see errors.

dellgirl said...

Oops! #2 got me so excited I forgot my main reason for stopping by. Thank so much for following me, I really appreciate it.

I love your blog.

ElanaJ said...

Can I just post this on my blog this week? I have all of those. All of them. Even worse is when you're at a stoplight scribbling something down and someone has to honk at you to get in gear. That's happened to me a few times.

Matt said...

Nice list. I tend to read novels a little overly critically as well. I roll my eyes when I find errors, but I mainly groan over tired plots, terrible characters and such.
Since I don't have any queries out, but I check my email and grumble over editors that hang on to short stories and poetry way, way past their response times.
(Looks around to see if any editors are hanging out.) Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Michelle! New here!

I would be number 4. It sometimes makes me want to keep my writing secret. But I work like a Trojan every night.
I would add some sleep deprivation too and about housework... aaah it leaves a lot to be desired.
After reading the previous comments, I'm glad to know I'm not as weird as i thought, hahaha.

Best wishes!

PS.- Thanks for following. I follow too.

Michelle McLean said...

ooo housework and sleep deprivation are great ones for the list! My house always seems to be a mess and I think I talk to my writer friends the most when we are all up writing at midnight :D

Anonymous said...

hahahahaha...LOVED THIS POST! And yes, guilt on all counts as charged.

Barb said...

Has to be No 2. How are these people getting published?!

Also, Cyrus cat is just lovely.

Nisa said...

Oh my gosh! That is hilarious! 1. Check. 2. Check. 3. Not so much. 4. Check. 5. For different reasons. I'm not that far yet, but check. 6. Double check! 7. No check, but I am so tempted to leave strange notes around the house now just to see what my husband would say. lol!

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol, these are all so unbelievably true. :) Especially the part about your cat. I have one who looks just like yours but mine is named Kermit. And he's a little bit more tubby.

Jaime Theler said...

I love this post! So true! Don't forget the people who call you/come over/ask for babysitting during writing time because you aren't "working" after all.

Some of my more obscure occupational hazards are the nervous tic of typing on flat surfaces (with or without a keyboard)and freaking out at movies when I see a preview for something that looks remarkably similar to a book idea. (True Story)

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

#2! I show up to book club and rant, "How could they get published, how?"
#4 My favorite: "I've always wanted to do that." Kinda like I've always wanted to play the piano. I just don't want to do the work, and neither do they.
#5 It is pretty cool when the agent does email you. Still waiting on the 25 K advance. ;)
#7 I'm in trouble if anyone ever dies mysteriously. I've got notes on how to kill someone and get away with it. I'm still not sure my pharmacist believes that I was "doing research for a book."

Annie Louden said...

I love the quote! And the photo of your kitty. One of my cats head-butts my head out of the way of the computer and stands in front of it.

If I ever tell people I write, they just say, "Oh, that's nice." Or they ask if I've been published, which makes me go into excuses-mode.