A Writer’s Temperament

Anything I’ve done — whether writing a novel, losing fifty pounds, becoming a runner, or whatever — I tend to believe anyone can do. On the other hand, just about everyone I know does something I could never do.  I’m not smart enough, don’t think that way, or lack the talent. I’m an ordinary guy in a world of extraordinary people.

Recent conversations about becoming a published author opened my eyes. I encouraged two friends who like to write to try writing a novel, insisting, since I had done it, they could too. They disagreed, and in different ways, told me I have what they referred to as “a writer’s temperament.”

I wouldn’t repeat the character-building decade of my twenties again for love nor money. Going to bars six nights a week and partying with friends on Sundays was fun, until poverty and responsibilities forced me to curtail my recreational activities. My efficiency apartment dungeon wasn’t particularly conducive to entertaining at home, my car wasn’t drivable, and I needed to save ride requests to get to work for days when the weather kept me from riding my bike.

Watching music videos on MTV on my little black and white television kept me entertained for minutes at a time. I read a lot and wrote tons of letters. In 1979, I started journaling in a spiral-bound tablet. I’ve since switched to hardcover journals with lined pages, but otherwise continue to journal at least once a week.

For me, writing is a total immersion experience. Whether I’m working on a new curriculum or consumer fact sheet at the day job, a journal entry, a post for my blog, or a novel makes no difference. I completely lose track of time, and am often startled by the number of hours to have passed since I sat down to write.

Whether this is true for all writers I can’t say. But the few authors I’ve asked say more or less the same thing. They write because they must, and once they get started, the outside world exists mostly as an interruption.

According to the guys who say I have a writer’s temperament, the ability to spend long hours in one spot without getting up is an essential ingredient. Perhaps they’re right. Or maybe it’s just a nice way of saying I’m an antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, control freak who lives in a fantasy world.

One person’s craziness is another person’s reality. Once you get to know them well enough, everyone is at least a little crazy. I blame the parents, bless their hearts. They do the best they can, but no kid escapes unscathed.

Given all the different ways I could express my insanity, I’m grateful for my writer’s temperament. If I didn’t write about serial killers, no telling what I might do.

And I really don’t want to find out….