Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Secret Life of Writers

The Secret Life of Writers or
What Writers don't tell their Families.

I have six children in their teens and early twenties who are all still living at home, (one has their partner living with us), so ours is a very busy house. From the moment I get up in the morning and take child number 6 to the train station at 6.30 am, until the last one gets in from UNI or work at around 9pm, I don't stop.

But while I'm doing the shopping, driving kids places and cooking, I'm writing.

So here is an insight into ... the Secret Life of Writers.

1. Everything is grist for the mill.

No matter how awful or wonderful the moment is, a writer will map it in their mind, so they can find it again and re-experience it to write about it.

2. Those long comfortable shared silences, aren't really silent.

While you're sitting there after dinner, sipping a wine or watching a sunset, your writing partner is really miles away, inside their latest book, wrestling with plot intricacies.

3. A writer is never bored (see 2.).

4. When your partner says they love you, they mean it. But ...

They wish everyone would leave them alone sometimes, completely alone, because time alone in their heads is a luxury. And they need it to feed the creative crucible.

As a writer I often feel like I'm living on two planes, one is the every day and the other is as vast as my imagination. As a creative person, a writer, artist or musician what goes on in your mental world that you don't share with your family?


Flinthart said...


My two boys both understand, more or less. It's instinctive in children, for a while.

I'm pretty sure Natalie doesn't. But, you know... you deal with that, right?

Oh. I've just noticed my warm shirt is inside-out. How long has that been the case?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I get your point. Kid's live with infinite possibilities as they try to make sense of the world. It's only as they get older that they put this mind set away.

I think that is why the Literary world accepts fantastical elements in children's stories, but at some point, they decide it is time to wallow in grimy realism, because the world is so horrible.

Shirt inside out? I took the kids to school one day wearing an apron!
Gah ... I was mortified.

Flinthart said...

So long as you had underpants, I'm sure nobody would have objected.

Rita de Heer said...

Dogs mind the secret world terribly. They look at you not seeing them and droop away with their tail at half mast.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Spoken as a true dog lover, Rita.

Now, cats will climb onto the desk and walk back and forth between you and the computer screen, until you pay attention to them!

Gary Kemble said...

Yes! My wife often says I'm being quiet, and I don't even realise.

Gary Kemble said...

Sorry, the 'yes!' was to do with your post, not the cat comment.

My 2yo recently killed one of our laptops by weeing on it. Sending a message, perhaps?! :)


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Gary, I know what you mean.

My husband is wonderfully sympathetic, but I do feel guilty sometimes, because I'm off somewhere else in my head.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Oh, and here's my child pee story.

Years ago, an editor rang me out of the blue because they liked some children's books I'd sent and wanted to buy three for a new series.

While I was talking to them, my 2 year old who was being toilet trained came up to me and grabbed my leg. I was trying to listen to the editor, sound professional and keep him quiet.

And then he peed down my leg!

I just kept right on talking to the editor. She had no idea.

Ah, those were the days!

Anonymous said...

No pee stories, but my whole writing thing was a secret for a long time. At first I didn't tell anyone in case I was really bad (which I was back then), then it kinda became a habit. I only plucked up the courage to tell the folks when I could put a solid book in their hands and watch their jaws hit the ground.

Now I'm given fridge magnets with things like "I'm in my own world - but it's okay. They know me here." on them and suffer the whole "So, when are you going to be rich enough to support your poor retired parents?" Yeah, they don't understand much. Primarily because I don't tell them much. Easier to just hand over the signed copy and joke about it showing up on eBay one day.

Cheers, Lisa.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Lisa, I LOVE the fridge magnet. I could so, use one like that.

I'd put it on the door to my computer room, along with a sign that reads 'Enter, only if you must!'

Amanda Greenslade said...

I completely agree with your post, but sometimes I find that the noise of everyday life becomes too loud even for my imagination to be running in the background. It's like a computer running out of resources - sigh. See my post on how this struggle makes me feel here if interested:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Hi Amanda,

I dropped by your blog spot. My days are very much like yours. From the moment I get up in the morning I'm running on the spot and sometimes it feels like I'm going backwards.

maxine.mcarthur said...

Yes, particularly agree with 2. It's a pity other people feel the need to fill what they perceive as silence and what I see as quality 'head' time. The other issue I've found lately is that stunned second when you have been 'writing' and realise you are a) standing in the kitchen/study/garage wondering what you came for or b)driving around the roundabout for the third time and lots of irate drivers are waiting for you (maybe that only happens in Canberra) or c)you have consumed a large portion of something actually really yummy and can't remember the flavour.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Maxine, I've done all those things.

I've arrived at places and not remembered driving there. Scary!