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The Oddity of the Writing Profession

Being a full-time writer is a strange occupation. I work all day alone in a tiny cottage behind my house, hunched over my computer, lost in an imaginary world. If I weren't producing coherent literature, some might consider this behavior peculiar, at best--or worthy of psychiatric intervention.

Even at night my characters follow me, so real are they. I hear their voices, worry over their troubles, wish they hadn't decided to do that. "Oh no," I want to warn, while I grit my teeth and let them have their way.

Odder yet, I'm always maintaining a dual perspective, for at the same time I feel enmeshed with my fictional people ("Ruby, please call home!") I am simultaneously aware of my role as their creator, and consumed by technical issues. Take verb choices, for instance: which one will give the most accurate and vivid picture of my characters' reality? Does Solomon, the father in my novel Mama's Child, stride into a room, lope, or guiltily sidle in, after he misses an urgent parent meeting with the head of his daughter Ruby's school?

Yet despite my sometimes sleepless nights as I mull over the best possible word to describe my character's behavior--words in harmony with the kind of person he is--I love the solitary life, creating worlds over which I have total control.

And then, another oddity of the writing life occurs, if one is successful: after years of happily laboring alone, growing intimately acquainted with my characters' lives over a span of time (in Mama's Child we watch the family fracture and reassemble over forty years), then, suddenly, it's publication day! Now a whole big world comes tumbling in. Reviewers, readers, interviewers--everyone has a response, everyone wants their say. My private imaginary world is suddenly a public one.

Even as I'm thrilled to hear others' enthusiasm for Elizabeth, Solomon, Ruby, and Che, my characters in Mama's Child, I mourn that quiet period when they were my creatures alone. Like a parent whose child is growing up, leaving home, I have to say Good-bye, knowing that I have done my absolute best to prepare her for the world, and let her go.
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