Two Worlds

So first, I’ve been playing around a bit with this website. I’ve updated my About page. I had added a Favorites page, but you know, it just didn’t feel right? So instead of listing favorite posts, which may have been favorites only for a specific period of time, I created a new page: Advice. It contains many of those favorite posts, but it focuses specifically on advice about writing and the creative life. Here’s my description of the page:

“Some of you have suggested that I write a book about writing. And not just about the act of writing, but also about other aspects of being a writer, such as branding and marketing, and creating the life that writers need in order to produce their best work. I don’t have time to do a project like that at the moment, and probably won’t for a while. But in the meantime, I thought I would share the blog posts I’ve written on those topics. I hope this advice helps you with your own writing, and with your creative life as a writer.”

Go on over to the page and take a look. Feel free to tell me what you think!

Also, I moved the Press and Purchase pages into new positions, and if you look at the Purchase page, you’ll see that I’m adding books. Eventually, you’ll be able to see all the different places where you can buy what I’ve written.

What do you think? I want to make sure that this website remains useful, timely, and easy to navigate.

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, I’m adding YA Novel Challenge links as people send me the URLs for their blogs. If you want to join the challenge and blog about your progress, send me your URL!

So, what do I mean by two worlds?

As you know, last weekend I was at Wiscon. I still remember what it felt like to walk down the hall on the sixth floor, where all the parties take place. I remember what the people there looked like, how they interacted. Yesterday, I went to the art show for Ophelia’s after-school program. There I saw all the parents from Lexington. And, as you can imagine, it was a completely different crowd. It was a crowd of people who looked like, and probably took themselves seriously as, grownups. (If you’ve seen pictures of Wiscon, you’ll know that none of us looked like grownups. At least, not there.)

This isn’t a particularly fair comparison. Wiscon draws people from all over the world. It’s an incredibly diverse crowd, and a crowd that is generally liberal, creative. Lexington is an expensive suburb of Boston. It’s filled with people who can afford to live here (and us, but I won’t get into that, although thank goodness for writing income). They moved here because of the schools. So they have children, and the children go to the schools, and to music and riding and karate lessons. They have two cars and commute into the city or work in one of the technology companies that have relocated to the suburbs. They shop at the local mall.

Wiscon and Lexington are two different worlds. What I realized, walking through that after-school program art show, is that I belong to the Wiscon world. And I wondered once again, as I’ve wondered a number of times during the past year, how in the world I ended up in Lexington.

Sometimes events just move you around, you know? You move to Boston for graduate school, and then you have a child, and the child needs to go to school, and the Boston school system makes absolutely no sense. So you think, I’ll move to Brookline, and you can’t find a place you can actually afford that has the right number of rooms, and you know you’re going to have to pay for parking and laundry. And you see an advertisement for a house in Lexington, and you think, the commute can’t be all that bad, after all, some people commute from Maine. (They do. I’m not joking.) And so there you are, in the suburbs.

I’m not sure what to call these two worlds. Perhaps the ordinary world and the extraordinary world? The ordinary world is the one in which you grow up to become a lawyer, and you make sure your benefits package has a good health care plan, and you move into a neighborhood in a good school district, and there are playdates and PTA meetings. The extraordinary world is the one in which you and your illustrator friend collaborate on a book, and then your friends who know about video help you make a trailer for it, and then your musician friends make a CD and you all go on tour together. Most of us creative types live in both worlds. After all, we still have to pay taxes. We still have to go to the dentist. (Although I have met people who live almost entirely in the extraordinary world.) But I suppose the reason I’m writing this is that if you’re a creative type, you can’t just live in the ordinary world. You need the extraordinary.

I’m not sure this is making sense, so I’m going to quote from a blog post called “How to Tell If You’re a Writer” that I happened upon recently. (It’s an incredibly funny blog post, by the way.) Those signs include the following:

Your first friend was imaginary.
You hold conversations between people who don’t exist.
Your brain is tuned to some mad, intrusive frequency.
You know how you would do it differently. (Meaning, you watch a movie or read a book and immediately start thinking about how you would do it – the right way!)

And this brilliant rant is from the comments:

“One of the hardest things for non-writers to understand is that YOU CANNOT TURN IT OFF. Ideas keep coming. They form unions and picket your brain. They fight turf wars over your attention. They butt in on each other when it’s not their turn to be written.

“A writer will come to a point of choice and pick a direction, but the possibility of that other choice will spawn an entirely new idea. Then your tenth grade English teacher’s voice pops into your head, reciting ‘The Road Less Traveled’ and suddenly that other idea now stars a guy named Frost because there’s no other possible name for him.

“Schrodinger and his cyanide-huffing cat had nothing on the infinite possibilities that live inside a writer’s mind. To a writer, there’s no question that multiple universes exist because we see them all, simultaneously, running side-by-side with their infinite branches splitting each possible storyline.

“And it NEVER STOPS.

“It’s the only profession in the world where you can get paid for quoting the voices in your head, rather than paying out money to make them stop.”

That last sentence? I don’t wear t-shirts with quotation on them.  But I might wear that one.

And these are also from the comments:

“Writers are too mad for any other job, just sane enough to stay free, hungry enough to be motivated, full enough to think, jaded enough to see the dark side of the world, hopeful enough to see the better alternative.”

“There is only one writer’s motto that matters. ‘I can use that.’ If you find yourself sitting at the deathbed of a dear friend, there is one part of your mind that is recording the pallor, the way he twists in pain, the color of the vomit. You’re ashamed of yourself, but you do it anyway.”

“You’re a writer if you’re mulling over going someplace relaxing on vacation – and all you can think about is how great it will be to WRITE there. (Beach house, the mountains, etc.)”

I suppose what I’m trying to do in this post, really, is figure out why, after being at Wiscon all weekend, I went to the after-school program art show and thought, WHAT am I doing here? Of course, the answer was obvious. In the ordinary world, one goes to the after-school program art show. But my native country is that extraordinary world of people who make stuff up. Who have imaginary friends; hold conversations between people who don’t exist; are tuned to some mad, intrusive frequency; and do it themselves (write books, make movies, create art).

So if you see me walking around Lexington, looking like a perfectly nice, ordinary person, you should know: there are voices in my head.

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3 Responses to Two Worlds

  1. Grey Walker says:

    A bumper sticker I’ve often thought of designing:

    “You’re just jealous because the voices aren’t talking to YOU.”

  2. Kerrie says:

    Re: your new Advice page- if you write more about being a writer & a parent, could you create a category for those? I’m thinking about this one (since you talk about being between the ordinary world of being a parent & the extraordinary world of being a writer), and these posts:

    The Writer’s Child
    https://theodoragoss.com/2010/12/26/the-writers-child/

    Boskone Panels
    https://theodoragoss.com/2011/02/19/boskone-panels/
    (…where you discuss your panel on The Writer’s Child)

    I’m sure there are others I just haven’t found yet. (I’m going through this myself at the moment, trying to get back into writing while approaching my son’s 2nd birthday. Naptimes just aren’t long enough and bedtime is not early enough.)

    I’m hoping to start LiveJournalling again soon, but I’ve started writing a little during naptimes on either a 5-novella YA series or a 5-story YA novel. We’ll see what it wants to be.

    >KC

  3. Grey, I love that! 🙂

    Kerrie, I’ll try to do that. I will say that it gets easier with every year. The years under two are definitely the hardest!

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