Is Writing a Personality Disorder?

Photo by Drew Coffman [<a href="">CC BY 2.0 </a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
Photo by Drew Coffman [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
The way he looked at me, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, you’d have thought I’d just told him I won the Georgia Lottery. But all I had told my friend was that  I was having a novel published in July. After shaking his head, he looked wistfully up toward the ceiling and sighed, “I always wondered if I had the talent to do that.” My answer was—“Hell, I have no doubt in my mind that you have the talent for it.”

“You really think so?”

Yeah, I really thought so. And still do. He’s a criminal lawyer. And every time I see him, he has me  alternating between sitting on the edge of my chair in suspense, and laughing my ass off.

I’ve been warned not to trust anything he says, so how much of what he tells me do I believe? To tell you the truth, I don’t worry about believing any of it. I’m only interested in the engrossing tales of personal struggle, courthouse intrigue, and wild, crazy clients. He has a gift for turning ordinary life into an artful blend of fact and bullshit that always involve him stumbling through utter chaos and ends with him landing amazingly on his feet. Believe me, if John Grisham knew where this guy hangs out, he would be there every day, taking notes.

I told him that he shouldn’t wonder for a second whether he could write a novel. The real question he should ask himself is—will he do it?

I explained that talent would be a good thing to have, all right. I’ve spent many a lonely night, sitting at my computer keyboard, wishing I had some of it.  But a novel is more than the product of a creative imagination. It’s a two-hundred-and-fifty-plus-page marathon that sometimes takes years of sitting alone, away from friends and family, arranging and rearranging words on a computer monitor till you get them just right.  When it’s finished, you have to revise it and revise it some more. After it’s all polished, you have to run a long gauntlet of soul-sucking rejection before your project finds a home–if it ever does. If the book fails, which is likely, you’ll have to decide whether to quit or start another one. Yeah, talent would be a good weapon for you to carry in your back pocket, but talent alone won’t even begin to get you through a long slog like that.

My friend is a charming, gregarious guy whose life sounds  like a three-ring circus. After I finished telling my boring theory of the limitation of talent, his expression changed from awe to sympathy. He patted my shoulder and said, “Man, that sounds like some kind of personality disorder.”