Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Image vs Reality

Every time I see the picture of a writer, any writer - book author, screenwriter, playwright, yadda yadda - he or she always looks very cool. Calm. Collected. Smart. Sharp dresser. With a "knowing" sort of look.

Like their life is easy. At least compared to the rest of us.

They all have this "life is a piece of cake" expression. Like Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo's photo here.

You know what I mean.

As much as we're aware those are professional shots, carefully choreographed and styled, we still tend to believe the image.

I think that's half the reason just about everyone I meet tells me they want to be a writer. Because they look like they have the best ever understanding of how to be successful. Or at least look successful. And completely stress-free.

Did you know an author's photograph is directly tied to the marketing success of a book?

I write about this because regardless of whether the photograph is the picture of the actual writer, to a snapshot, they're all lies.

Lies, do you hear me?

Because writers wouldn't be writers in the first place if we had life by the tail. Something happened to us somewhere along the way that makes us want to tell you our story - in a way we trust someone will pay attention to. Someone will listen to us - read us, watch us, whatever.

It struck me that while people can help me look assembled, relaxed and casually on top of the world - like this old picture of me that's on my book Mind Over Media, it is in no way even close to how I look when I'm writing.

When we write we all suffer at some point(s), stressing out about whether we have found just the right word, if our stories (non-fiction or fiction) are strong, impacting and well constructed enough; characters clear and sharp enough; arguing and laughing with our muses and spiritual sources in the universe if we have them.

And we tend to personally and physically dis-assemble while we undergo the process of purging words into the world.

Creating something out of nothing.

You know where I got the idea for the meltdown scene look for Elisabeth Röhm's character in THE WHOLE TRUTH? The photo currently featured on our poster for the film? Looking in the mirror as I wrote the script.

Despite looking fashionably poised in this 1938 photo, I bet Martha Mitchell went just a little crazy when she wrote Gone With the Wind.

Some writers are so sensitive they can't stand the sweet misery that is writing. It gets too painful for them, and my heart goes out to them.

Some resort to chemical and other pain-killers to cope, but I stopped doing any of that decades ago because it takes off my edge and I love my edge.

So why do it?

It's just something we can't NOT do.

We simply have to do it because ... well, because it's something we're evidently created to do.

Created to create, that's why we're here.

Frequently I ask myself, "How did I get myself into this situation?" What am I doing here in this scene with all these characters? Why can't I be happy with a more secure, easier way to make a living?

There are those writers who simply put in their four hours, going to their offices, putting out the verbiage they are capable of producing that day.

I'm too passionate and physical to just sit there calmly; I need to grapple with all that I expect from myself. I talk to my characters; I listen to them, my muses and other voices in my head that hopefully result in something that makes it worth your while to watch, read or hear.

I maintain, however, no matter how cool those post-publication/production pictures look, we - most of us, anyway - go through a hair-pulling, crazy-making, breathe-in-a-paper bag experience procedure sculpting words on the page, and do not in any way resemble the photographs of us published on our books.

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