The Self-Absorbed Writer

I'm beginning to believe that all writers (or artistic types) must simply accept that they need to be self-absorbed. I don't mean we have to be horridly selfish, unkind, and disingenuous. It doesn't mean we don't care about or are helpful to others. Still, by nature, artists and writers are often stuck in their own little worlds, and it seems that our poor little minds really have to be confined and left alone without the distractions of the real world. There's not a lot of room for anything else.

Bills? What bills? Dinner parties? I ain't got the time. School plays? Honey, can you take the kids and just leave me alone in the dark?

Often I find myself needing, wanting, desperately seeking that alone time and space, not just to be reflective by myself, but to completely involve myself in that creative realm and fictional world, where the meatspace doesn't exist anymore. Only me and my characters and that alternate universe. There are times when I don't want to communicate, don't want to see other people, don't want to have a real conversation. I am, as the cliche goes, "in my own little world" far faraway. And then I catch myself, feeling guilty for neglecting the people I love and not being totally involved in their lives, not being there for them when they're in trouble and reaching out, not appearing caring enough as if, well, I'm in my own little world. That I'm totally self-absorbed.

The flip side is that when I'm caring and involved and trying my best to be a decent, selfless person that I should, my creativity suffers. Often I sit down and try to write and nothing comes out, because my mind would be distracted by whatever else I need to do, whatever responsibilities I have, and whatever real world problems I am facing. Even when I've got the time and space to myself, I'm not there. I don't belong to that alternate universe anymore and my characters don't speak to me.

Because I am now in THIS world -- the real one. The one that has bills and doctor's office and family obligations waiting for me. I find myself not being able to be in two worlds at the same time. I have to choose. Unfortunately, the real world wins every time.

Many others have said to me: "Just sit down and write. It will come to you." Well, it may work for you, but it certainly doesn't work for me. I don't just transcribe. I need to be totally immersed and involved. I feel like I need to be that self-absorbed son of a gun to pull it off. My characters need me. It's not just work for me -- it's a whole different way of living, as if there's that line I must cross, the door I must enter to be in that other world, and yet how can I leave when there's this world here needing me?


Jenn Hollowell said…
I can relate to this post SO (sosososososo) much!!!!
Anonymous said…
Great post. It's a struggle for me, too.

I think of it as a shift in gears between the outer world and my inner world. Sometimes the shifting is easy; sometimes it's difficult.

And when it's difficult, I feel guilty, too, re: the people in my life for needing the extra quiet and space in which to access my creativity.
Ray Wong said…
I'm determined to NOT feel guilty about it. I just need to find a better balance.
Anonymous said…
I think there's 'self aware' and then there's 'self absorbed'.

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