The Mind of a Writer
By Matthias Schricker
Writers are a lot like people. The writer’s mind only has something to say. Beyond that, really, we’re figuring out the best way to say that thing. That’s our world and we live in it. So, yes, we’re basically people. Everyone has something to say.
Staying true to myself, I googled the mind of a writer before beginning writing this. Some really excellent folk, (so far as I can tell from their post), said things along the lines of:
- Writers observe the course of the human heart and soul.
- Writers live in a “not-real world” and the real world simultaneously, it’s tough to balance.
- Writers are full of wonder.
- Writers are full of worry.
- Writers are… (you could really fill this in with anything.)
Robert De Niro is quoted as saying:
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”
I’m here, sitting sideways in an almost comfy Starbucks chair, trying to figure out what I personally think about a writer’s mind. Writers are varied. Writers are inconsistent. Writers are a million things. Even the commonalities among writers incorporate a fairly wide spectrum. I’m too early in my career to say with any certainty what makes a “true writer;” I imagine later in my career I’ll not really even feel inclined to guess at what a true writer is.
But, there’s something lying heavy at the base of me. I think, maybe, I have an idea. I think that – being all that we are and aren’t – writers are probably something like a particular manifestation of a desire that lingers in everyone, even non-writers (i.e. those less-inclined to write beyond the cultural necessities of the day-to-day.) I think that desire is to relay our vision as precisely as possible.
To see the world, to find people that we want to share the world with, and to share it as exactly as we may. We want to say things and we want to be understood. And, probably, we want what we’re saying to be good. We’re discontent. We must be discontent.
Writing is trying to paint as much of the canvas as clearly as possible. We have the paint. The canvas is across the room, though. Actually, there are a lot of canvases. Every person who’ll read what we write is a different one. They’re all going to catch the paint certain ways. So, we throw, and we hope you see it.
Do you see it? If you described what you saw and we could empirically line it up to what we’d intended, it’d come out to a percentage of accuracy. She sees 63% of my painting. He sees 30%. They all see whatever per-cent. Then we, the writers, look back at the painting and we try again. We throw the paint, and maybe 30% becomes 50%. And if it does, we’ve done a pretty damn good job.
That is writing, to me at least. A writer’s mind. Her intent. His hope. Do you see what we mean? No? We’ll try again. Now? Because, you know, it’s important. So we write and rewrite and re-rewrite and so on. It can be maddening. Because, sometimes, we’re not even sure what we’re trying to say. Sometimes we know it vaguely. Sometimes we know it so intensely that it’s like friction on our bones if we don’t just let it flow. We cannot be fully content. Or, else, we stop writing. If you could get us 100%, then we wouldn’t have to write again, but that’s not a thing.
I think, my very best writing, felt like 60%. Maybe 70%. Maybe for a paragraph. It felt like most people reading it would understand what I meant at least that much. And that’s the thing, that was enough. That was the blood of it. I was excited, wasted, exhausted – but, they’d know most of what I meant. I reveled for five minutes. I smiled a lot and I read it to people who love me enough to let me read my writing. Then it was done. I took a breath and I went back to writing.
No matter how many times it’s going to take to keep trying to say what’s on my mind, no matter how much of it is clear; I’m always going to walk back across the room, line up the canvases, and fling the paint again. I think writers cannot be satisfied ever, because, if we’re being honest – the magic of writing is being known by someone as much as we may.
As varied as writers are, our audiences are tenfold. Writers must be discontent, believers in discontentment, heralds, sentinels, and arbiters of discontentment. That’s what sets us apart. Saying it and not being heard will never do. We are like a lot of people. However, we’re just never going to be content with what we say. So, we write. And we get it as polished as we can and then we send it into the world, hoping for 60 and 70%.
A writer’s mind is discontent.
But… then again, I’m not sure that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. Am I? Ha.
I’d love to hear other people! What is a “writer’s mind” to you? Paint me a picture.
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