Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?
When you take dictation from the voices in your head, it’s easy to forget that not everything works the way those voices tell you. This might have a little something to do with the way so many writers fall for smooth-talking political hackery (along with the issues that often come along with the whole negotiated relationship with the real world thing) that promises to make things better for everyone.
Hell, despite years of trying to strangle the little monster, I still have a strong idealistic streak that pops up at the most inopportune moments (I’m sure as hell not in SP4 for my benefit. Actually, I should probably admit that I spoke up because I have this horrible tendency to see something that needs to be done and get in there and do it. Then wonder why everyone is pissed off at me for upsetting the status quo. No, not at all idealistic there).
Then of course we writers have this tendency to repeatedly push our own buttons and wind ourselves up into tight little balls of self-perpetuating angst. I’m not going to list examples of when I do it because it’s too damn depressingly long a list, and I’ve seen plenty of other writers do the same thing to themselves. I actually kind of have Sarah’s permission to say that she’s one of them and she’s winding herself up right now and probably somewhere between depression-crash and vibrating with worry over something that probably won’t happen.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Apart from the voices in our head telling us all the interesting stuff that usually just happens to fit nicely into our beliefs (but not always, and sometimes we can’t tell that what we’re hearing inside our skulls doesn’t match what we think we know – compare some of the themes of Harry Potter books 5 through 7 with some of J. K. Rowling’s comments, for instance. I can guarantee that I’ve found a ton of “hey, you! You with the fingers! Listen up before you drive us all off a bloody cliff!” messages when I reread my older stuff. It’s got to be older material because anything too recent I read what I think should be there instead of what actually is there.)
There is a simple answer, of course. And unlike most simple answers, this one is actually more or less correct: we do this to ourselves because we’re human. Being writers, we tend to ramp up the neurotic/creative side of the human spectrum, often to the kind of levels that aren’t normally seen in the wild without something else being severely damped (and being writers, what gets damped tends to be contact with the world outside our skulls, since it’s usually boring and unfulfilling compared to the ones on the inside, as it were). We’re not the only people who do it – who hasn’t heard of or met the co-worker with the… interesting beliefs, or the person who’s so open minded absolutely anything can take up residence in there? We just tend to do it as a career choice.
On the slightly more serious side, one of the reasons this sort of things happen is that when you pair a ridiculously powerful pattern-recognition engine (namely the human brain) with random or uncontrollable events (life in general), you get superstition in all its flavors, complete with the lucky underwear that’s become more hole than fabric but can’t be disposed of because you’ve got to be wearing it when you take an exam or you’ll fail. Or the self-perpetuating belief that you can’t write unless you wrestle three sharks before you start (and win, presumably, since I imagine it would be kind of difficult to write anything from inside a shark).
Or the idea that in order to be worthy you have to be a literary writer – that one is a bit like the self-esteem canard in that it gets cause and effect precisely backwards (for the confused: people with high self-esteem tend to do better in life. They have high self-esteem because they work for what they achieve. Handing people ‘achievements’ in order to boost their self-esteem causes an immense amount of damage, but try telling that to the people who run the schools these days): literature is nothing more than something that speaks to a lot of people over a lengthy time frame. If it’s still popular fifty years after first publication, it’s got a good chance of being literature.
I could go on, but I’m sure everyone here can figure out the principle. After all, most of us have managed to stay on at least civil terms with the world outside our skulls.