What Does Writing Look Like To You?

What Does Writing Look Like To You?

Sometimes, I wonder what people think of me. I’m sure I strike an odd sight. I spend a lot of time parked in front of my computer screen, reading over or adding to strange documents. My secondary screen holds a smattering of digital post-it-notes. They often grow out of control before I cull their numbers. They’re full of interesting little tidbits like jeweled hippopotamus or give that haughty lady in Song of the Spheres an actual name during the next pass. Things that probably only make sense if you know I’m a writer.

When I’m not actively writing, I often stare at my computer screen. Or, when an idea catches me mid-motion, I end up staring into more random spaces. I can’t count the number of times my husband has asked me what I’m doing, only for me to jolt and realize I was staring in his direction. But I didn’t really see him, or anything else for that matter. Because I was in an obscure writing mode.

Granted, my husband is used to my odd nature. During the summers, or the days he has off work, he sits in his half of the office and listens to me fill the house with the clickity clack of my mechanical keyboard while words flow in various speeds from the tips of my fingers. He hates my keyboard. Hates how loud it is (though the new one is softer than my old one). But he appreciates the work I do. And when he hears the clickity clack, he knows to let me be, to wait until I resurface from wherever I’ve gone to start asking me questions or sharing funny things he found on the interwebs.

Writers never really stop writing

But I often wonder what I look like to other people. The ones who aren’t used to me. When they see me staring out the window on a long car drive, do they think I’m taking notice of the passing streets and houses? Or do they see the empty glaze in my eyes and realize that I’m worlds away, hammering out some upcoming exchange between two characters. Or trying to figure out how the next part of my current novel pans out. I might even be thinking whole series ahead, trying to pin down the primary concept for my next big project.

Long car drives aren’t the only time I catch myself staring off into space either. It happens at coffee shops, while I sit by the window watching people pass by. Or in the grocery store, when I seem to be carefully contemplating an item, but have just been caught by a bit of conversation in the next aisle over. I notice the way people walk or talk. Notice the way they move across the parking lot, or when they unexpectedly encounter a friend. And I file it all away for later, thinking how I simply must put those two girls walking in perfect unison down the street into a novel someday – as soon as I figure out why it’s relevant.

For my family, writing must look like dozens of absent moments where it seems like I’m not paying attention. To my friends it must look like the constant comparison of imaginary people to real people, and fake situations to real ones. They can never quite tell when the words that reminds me of the time… are going to lead to something that really happened, or something from out of one of my books.

My writing time looks entirely different inside my brain

For my husband, my writing becomes a series of sounds. Of growling that accompanies heavy pounding on the keyboard when I’m frustrated. Or laughter that interrupts the clickity clack but can’t be explained because the context is too convoluted. Of soft sniffles while I rip a tissue from the box on his desk, shake my head, smile and reassure him that it’s just the story.

Sometimes I wonder about these things. Because writing doesn’t look like any of that to me. Sure the words appear on the screen in front of me while my fingers glide across the keyboard to the steady rhythm of their downwards strokes. And I often have to interrupt that song so I can backpedal and fix a mistake.

But I don’t really see the words when I’m writing.

I see the spaceship locked in mortal battle against a swarm of smaller foes intent on cutting through its armor. I hear the hum and vibration of the engines deep within the machine, struggling to keep the ship on course. See the bright flashes of lasers cutting across the battlefield. The momentary explosions that Hollywood has taught us to imagine even in the vast void of space. I hear the buzz of alarm klaxons and the shouts of officers giving orders. It’s frantic and it’s thrilling and it completely transports me away.

Writing makes my life exciting

On quieter days, I tour a massive space station, imagining what it might be like if there were houses both above and below me. To live in a place where the workings of gravity seem to defy my personal sensibilities. I contemplate the art one might find on the wall of a public works building, or what kind of statues might be built in the square by this particular culture. This new setting surrounds me, taking me out of my mundane house and letting me stroll into a world of wonder.

Other days, I might walk through a dense, unexplored forest where creatures lurk just below the hollow surface of an alien planet. Yet others are spent in the compact kitchen of a personal spaceship where dishes are tucked into little cubbies to keep them from shattering if the ship experiences some kind of turbulence. And where a hacker with mood-color-changing hair sips the perfect lattes her coffee machine spits out on command. Where the windows are just view screens, projecting images from the external cameras.

For me, writing is a magical journey, different every day. It allows me to step beyond my mundane world, beyond my office with the window overlooking the back garden, filled with the distant rumble of the dishwasher. Writing lets me meet new people without having to walk through the cold to the coffee shop down the street. It makes certain that every day is exciting, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

What does writing look like to you?

Writing, for me, is much like reading, except I get to decide where the vision takes me. I get to tweak the journey, mold it, shape it, converse with the major characters and find out where we’re headed before we actually get there.

The best part is there’s no clean up. When I finish, I simply blink and return to my PJs. I go downstairs, I make a cup of tea, and I sit in the living room, contemplating where I’ll go tomorrow.

So tell me friends; what does writing look like to you?

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