In Disguise

Sam,

I’ve written before about what it means to live as a writer. I wish to return to this subject and speak about how easy it is to blend in to your surroundings as a scribe. I can sit at most any place at most any time and nobody would be the wiser of what I was doing. With pen and paper or a computer on my lap, people would assume I was a student hammering away at a paper or doing anything other than writing a novel. That’s actually the most common question/response I get when at work.

It gets even better. People often don’t even ask what I’m doing; they assume and say “what are you studying?” or “writing a paper?” “how much school do you have left?” I think it’s telling about our culture that the first thing to pop into most people’s minds is “you must be a student” when they see someone doing something as simple as reading a book with a highlighter in hand. Can one not come across a good quote or lesson in a novel and want to mark it? Okay, I’ll concede on this one. Most casual readers don’t go out of their way to carry a highlighter with them. I think most of them would simply dog-ear of a page they like. It really just might be the English major types or the dedicated fans who make notes in the margins of say A Song of Ice and Fire.

Maybe my diary is my computer, and I’ve got some thoughts I need to get down. Keeping a daily journal is beneficial for anyone at any age. Having a time stamp is much compelling. Writing goals down triggers you to want to be productive and fulfill that thing you said you’d do three months ago. . . . If people must take notice of what I’m doing, I’d much prefer a simple “what are you working on?” instead of automatically assuming I’m writing because I have to not because I want to.

This is the nature of living as a writer, one who has yet to be published. There’s no third-party deadline but that which is self-imposed (and often fail to meet). There’s no editor or agent to bounce ideas off of. There’s no one telling us to do it, except maybe a friend who simply wants to read it even if it’s not “finished.” Which is why living in disguise can be so liberating. As the whole world buzzes around you at a library, café, food court, there you are quietly tapping away into a wealth of other worlds, other times, other minds. Stephen King did say writers are the secret agents of the art world. I guess it’s in our job description. We can sit back and observe our surroundings with little disturbance from the unawares layman. We can translate real-world scenarios into fiction best when nobody notices us. Sometimes, we can be as involved in real life as we are in our stories, which is to say invisible, floating from perspective to perspective less substantial than a fly.

This may sound lonely. It can be. That, too, is in our job description. In order to create well-rounded, sympathetic characters, we must remain as neutral as possible. I did say sometimes we can be invisible, though. It does help to leave the safety of the wall to participate in a social gathering. Our imagination can only help us so much when it comes to engineering character interaction.

They say there’s no rest for the wicked. I guess that means creative folk are a devilish bunch. I can’t imagine what it’s like to never have something to do. Being in disguise lends the opportunity to research without looking like it. I can pay attention to subtle cues during conversation (word choice or body language), make note of someone’s gait when walking.  We study life as it happens around us. It’s not all enjoyable, however. Being more attentive to details shows flaws the lackadaisical miss. And, of course, there’s the “Why are you writing if you’re not in school?” I have to deal with on a weekly basis. (If you imagined a high-pitched, irksome tone to that question, you’d be very on point.) So there are vexes along with the merits. Certainly, it’s not for the unmotivated or unimaginative. But if spending a Saturday night on the couch noting the way George R. R. Martin personifies nature, you might very well thrive in disguise.

Cheers.

*feature photo credit via Pinterest: [https://www.pinterest.com/pin/549791066983582878/?lp=true]

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