There's an old joke about the girl at the party suddenly turning away from the guy who says, "I'm a writer." As with all jokes, there's some truth to it, and there's a bit of lying going on. Anyone knows that the younger and more naive the target, the more likely she (or he) is going to fall for the "artist" thing. It's the ones who've been around the block who know that writers can't pay their bills and drive second-hand, or even third-hand, cars that are only suitable for quick drives to the grocery store and back.
There's an irony, too, about writing, since it's as pervasive a skill as breathing oxygen is a requirement for living. No industry survives or thrives without its writers, and as someone with many friends in technical writing fields, I can attest that those writers are paid as well or better than many of their peers.
But, I'm deflecting. We all know that's not the type of writing I'm, well, writing about tonight. I'm writing about the art. The type of writing that produces paychecks so few and far between, certain writers I know have time to go fight wars (literally) in between publications. The type of writing that we so-called writers are so reluctant, yet so happy, to suffer for.
Writers are a strange beast, to be sure. We're all crazy. Seriously crazy. For whatever reason, we force ourselves to deconstruct the most magnificent of human experiences into mere linguistic symbols on a piece of paper or a computer screen. Such treatment of such magnificence inherently makes writers charlatans, and incompetent ones, at that. Our failures in life are only equaled by our failures to adequately depict a wondrous event with mere words. Perhaps that's why the smarter authors sometimes use illustrators.
For whatever reason, we find ourselves deconstructing the most horrifying of human experiences into cold, emotionless descriptions limited by a grasp of language and a struggling imagination. Such treatment of such horror inherently makes writers liars, and selfish ones. Whose to say our horrors are any worse than any of yours? Our editors? Our publishers? And who the fuck are they?
Still, that's not really why writers write. Most of them couldn't care less who reads their words, and many would use the excuse that they "write for themselves." Yes, even writers have their fair share of cowards, and that is to say, most of them are afraid of their own shadows. Unlike the shadows of others, however, ours can speak, and sometimes that fear is warranted. Only the best of writers can ignore them. Only the best of writers are honest with their audiences, and with themselves.
And, still, that's not really why writers write. Writers are inherently boring people, more excited by learning about something obscure or completely irrelevant in the lives of most, but possibly relevant in the lives of that semi-autobiographical character that an author wishes he or she to be, or maybe wishes he or she wasn't.
Writers are also inherently bored by everybody else. People only interest us as far as we can write them, and if we can't write you without falling asleep at our typewriters and computers, well, then fuck off. The real world can pass us by, right outside our windows, but our worlds live forever in our minds. They're often underdeveloped, or even totally undeveloped, but they exist to us.
Our characters live and breathe. Their issues and problems not only inhabit their own lives, but ours, as well. Fictional wars fought from imagination to page are fought before our very eyes, in our very minds, and the wounds from those battles are very real. Birds sing, clouds rain, ships sail, and clocks tick in the worlds we create.
And that's why writers are crazy. There's no getting around it... we're definitely fucking nuts. And we need someone to remind us that our worlds are merely words passing time.