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They say writing is a lonely job. Everything is dependent upon one person: you. You make the schedule, you make the tea, you do the research, you create the product, you maintain the equipment, you do the marketing. You are the CEO, the administrative assistant and the sales manager of your career. The up sides are that your commute consists of walking down stairs to your home office, the office politics involve the two cats fighting over who gets your lap first, the boss doesn’t care how much time you spend on the internet and the dress code is sweats and bunny slippers. The down side is that you only have yourself to blame if nothing gets done.

You have to be disciplined enough to actually work everyday for a reasonable amount of time, toward definitive goals, whether it be words or pages per day, fleshing out a character, or researching just how much C4 it takes to blow up a bank vault. There are no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, no supervisors to take your problems to, no bosses to pat you on the back for a job well done. It’s just you, your head and whatever medium you chose to work in.

In reality, while you may be physically on your own, you are hardly lonely. Your head is full of an entire office’s worth of people. You have the office nag who is always on you about the budget, expenses or deadlines. There’s the office gossip who runs around blathering about the latest celebrity news. And then there’s the office schlub, who never bathes nearly as often as preferable, and can waste an entire day playing Free Cell. And that’s just what you might expect in a “normal” office. Trying adding those to the characters you’re writing about: the gunslinger, the Federal agent, the crusty side kick, the eccentric scientist. Just imagine what some of those conversations might entail. Sometimes I just wish the gunslinger would shoot the nag and be done with it.

You can spend entire days looking at blank pages while the voices in your head argue about who’s in charge. Or you write something for one of your characters, who then promptly complains that he/she/it wouldn’t do whatever it was you wrote, or at least not with so much angst. They torment you about getting more word time in, how they speak, how they dress, how they interact with their world. They make fun of you when you get them mixed up, and they haunt you when you kill them off. You recall the days when there was just an echoing emptiness between your ears. Or at least you try, because the truth is, you were never alone.

Which is probably a good thing, when all is said and done. Because all those people in your head make sure you do the job you were meant to do. Externally, you may be wondering if you’re on the right track, because most days you have no idea if anybody in the real world is paying attention. Sort of like a struggling comedian allowed up for open mike just before closing time Tuesday morning. Yeah, his stuff is good, but who’s there to notice? The bored stiff bartender who’s seen a hundred just like him come and go? The drunk who hasn’t seen much of anything beyond the bottom of a glass? The manager who only cares about how much money is coming in? Oh, wait, those are characters, too, because what’s a scene without some stereotypes? But then there’s the guy who came in out of the rain because his car broke down and he just turns out to be the one person who sees what the comedian can do, and, better yet, give him the break he needs to get out of the dead end slot. That may be a stereotype, too, but it is that hope that keeps the comedian going back to open mike night, and the same kind of hope that keeps writers writing. The voices in your head are convinced that somewhere out there is somebody paying attention, and you will get your rescue from the mediocrity of your life, because their stories just have to be told. In the mean time, you keep listening to their arguments, keep herding the cats, keep sitting down with your tea and your notes and your writing implement of choice and try to sort through the cacophony for that one gem that will keep you in bunny slippers and out of cubicle hell.

Those people who say writing is a lonely job obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.

© 2009 Cheri K. Endsley. All rights reserved.

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