Side Effects of Writing Fiction

A few weeks ago, Health magazine came out with a ranking of the ten most depressing jobs in America. Writing came in at number five, right after Justin Bieber’s bodyguard and Lindsay Lohan. Reasons cited were frequent rejection, irregular pay, and that moody, creative thing that makes many of us want to eat chocolate and cry.

I understand all of these and yet I still write. I write because I have to. If I don’t, that moody, creative thing will kick in, and I’ll want to punch holes in the wall and knock people’s hats off, then eat chocolate and cry. Here are some other side effects I’ve suffered as a fiction writer. As with anything else, your actual experience may vary.

1. Spontaneous combustion. Attempting to operate heat-generating kitchen appliances while writing may result in scorched pots, wailing smoke alarms and the need to create alternate dinner plans. (See Appendix A, Fire Extinguishers, and Appendix B, Take Out Menus.)

2. Training accidents. Training your roommates, significant others and/or children to respect your writing hours must be done firmly and consistently. As with puppies, inconsistency leads to accidents. Yelling at someone who knocks on your writing room door and says, “I’m going to get the mail” is a perfectly normal response, as you would have figured that out on your own following his or her return with various envelopes and flyers, and still gotten your writing done. (See Appendix C, Training Accidents Leading To Spontaneous Combustion, or Appendix D, Apologies For Every Occasion.)

3. Alienation of affection. You may, through no fault of your own, fall in love with your characters as you write them, and will want to sneak away to spend quiet moments alone with them. This is normal, although your significant other may feel otherwise. (See Appendix D, Apologies For Every Occasion, or Appendix E, Flowers and Chocolate)

4. Antisocial behavior. You may find yourself increasingly reluctant to attend social events, especially those far from home, preferring instead to lock yourself away in front of your computer or notebook. (See Appendix F, How to Feign Illness)

5. Unreliability. Even if you desire to attend a social engagement or agree to pick up a friend at the airport, you might have trouble leaving your characters behind. You may sink back into their world, only to be reminded of your previous commitments by an angry woman’s voice calling you a “douche” on your answering machine. You may then drift back into your room, musing about the etymology of the word, thinking you must write a blog about it soon. (See Appendix D, Apologies For Every Occasion or Appendix G, Brain-Piercing Alarm Clocks)

6. Utter and complete joy. Finding the perfect words, putting them together just the right way, and stringing those sentences together like exquisite glass beads may lead to unexpected feelings of euphoria similar to eating chocolate. (See Appendix H, Does This Mean I’m Cured?)

Having any side effects of your own?

8 thoughts on “Side Effects of Writing Fiction

  1. JenD says:

    Number six. Definitely number six! Frequent bouts of Numb-Butt aside, I think the most intriguing side effect I’ve noticed since I began writing fiction is this completely foreign (to me) sense of contented normalcy (and, yes, joy) I experience just after satisfactorily stringing together a bunch of previously random words and literally seeing the ripe, juicy fruits of my imagination right there on the page. I’d never had anything like that in any of the half dozen or so careers I’d had before.

    Unfortunately, I often suffer adverse side effects from NOT writing.

  2. auntbethany says:

    Blogging is unbelievably addicting, especially when you start to network with other people. Suddenly, not only are you spending hours writing your OWN material, but you’re now spending just as much time reading other writers and commenting on their posts.

    I have a friend who I chat with online all the time, and if there’s ever a lull in our conversation, he says “You’re blogging, aren’t you?” 80% of the time, he’s right!

    I think there should be a profile badge we can display proudly on our sites which says: “Hi, I’m So-and-So, and I’m a Blog-O-Holic.” Who’s with me?!?

    Great post, Laurie!

  3. Margie says:

    Does being a writer lead to eating chocolate, or does eating chocolate lead to being a writer? Personally, I prefer dark chocolate and light stories. Do people who prefer light chocolate write dark stories? Side effects? Mine have more to do with the amount of chocolate I’ve eaten, than anything else…

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