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It’s easy to recognize the writers who aren’t writing. They’re the ones prowling the bookstores, clutching coffee in a steaming paper cup like it just might save their life if they hold on tight enough.
“Looking for inspiration,” they mumble when cornered. “Researching this thing I’m working on. Just an idea. Nothing big really. Not even an idea. Sort of a concept, maybe.”
The hot quotient is directly proportional to the amount of stammering and backpedaling it takes to spit it out. If little that comes from their mouth resembles English or any language you’ve ever heard, back away slowly. They’ve got a fire so hot licking at their heels that it might consume the world. They’re not stalking the words of other writers looking for inspiration — they’re running like hell. Trying to muzzle that inner writer, satisfy her with a smattering of nouns and verbs written by someone else.
Who buys all those books about writing? The writers who are writing don’t have time for them. They’re locked away in their hovels with a pencil jammed between their teeth, hands flying across the keys, lost in another world. You won’t see them until their manuscript is in the mail and they’ve rejoined the writers who aren’t writing.
It’s a full-time job, not writing. The blood must be spilled, one way or the other. The desire must be blunted. Some writers drink. Some writers take drugs. Some writers sleep with other writers who aren’t writing.
Anything to channel the dizzying high into something manageable, something safe.
The problem with safety is that it is a flat line — a plodding continuum where nothing is ventured, nothing is lost, no one gets hurt, and the hero never gets the girl.
So we live in our shadow worlds, always blurring the edges but never touching reality. Like recovering addicts, we gather at our book club meetings, sucking down coffee and talking about words. The shape of them. The taste of them. The way they feel in your mouth. The way they smell on the page. Reeling with want, we pick apart syntax, hold it up to the light and inhale.
Oh my God. Good. Yes. I remember this. So very, very good.
Gripping the table, we close our eyes and hold our breath as the high hits.
Please let me look normal. Please don’t let me look like I need this too much. Want it too much. I can walk away from this any time I want. Really. Watch me.
And then suddenly, we realize that everyone is watching. The room is silent, except for the sound of our own words, bouncing off the walls, shattering and breaking in the stale, still air.
They don’t understand. They will never understand. They’ve never tasted it. They’ve never lost it.
“I thought it was a stupid book,” a lady in a pink twinset says finally. “I mean, that kind of stuff wouldn’t happen in real life.”
And gratefully we nod. Close call. They almost noticed.
They almost noticed.
Music: Building Steam with a Grain of Salt by DJ Shadow