The many people inside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 22, 2013 11:22 PM

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “writers aren’t exactly people… They’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.” It’s a rather schizophrenic metaphor for what turns out to be a very schizophrenic lifestyle because writing truly is a way of life.

I’ve written here before that writing is not simply what I do but rather who I am. I’m writing constantly, even when I’m not typing or scribbling. I’m having ideas for stories or scenes for a story. I have characters present themselves to me in dreams or when I’m cooking dinner. Suddenly, there is a new person who has found his or her way into my imagination. My dreams often play like movies, stories that make perfect sense sometimes and at other times, no sense at all. And definitely no sense once I awake.

I always have something on which to scribble or write. In my purse, there is a small notebook and pen. Next to the bed, numerous loose pieces of notepaper and notebooks, and a pen. In my office, nearly infinite pieces of paper and pens, and my favorite mechanical pencil.

There is also my computer, my iPad with its trusty Notes app as well as my iPhone with its Notes app. I have become very adroit at “scribbling” with my thumbs.

I have scribbled things on paper that reside in the pockets of all of my jeans, at least until they go into the wash. The small bag I carry on the motorcycle has paper and pens as well, scribbled thoughts and notes and ideas, though I don’t use them as often because of the Notes app on the iPhone which now goes with me everywhere I travel.

I write and often when I do, I am not writing as me. I’m writing as a character, or as the beginnings of a character. Being present at the birth of a character can be an unpleasant experience, sometimes even a messy one.

Here are some of the characters that I currently have living inside with me:

There is Katherine, known as Kat, a woman who lost her daughter and then loses her mind. Hunter who is searching for the meaning of her life now that she has turned 50. Charlotte who is dying and desperate to make sure her husband has someone to make him happy once she’s gone.

There is Peter, an artist, who takes his horribly burned daughter from the expert doctors who aren’t helping her in Boston to a Medicine Woman who lives just outside a reservation in Arizona.

There is Simon who loses his wife and daughter and tries to rebuild his life by rebuilding a broken down old house.

There is Laurie who is raising her stepson with her husband and must confront all of her feelings about that fact when her husband dies and the boy’s biological mother, Zoey Ray, wants the boy back.

There is Evelyn Halloran who is eight years old and witnesses a murder in rural Pennsylvania in 1927.

There is, there is, there is.

And there are others that I’m writing for other people, like the historical fiction/memoir about a couple in Chicago who were separated by World War II, married after knowing each other just seven days and built a life together. They aren’t my characters, but they are still characters that are inside of me, fighting for space in my tiny little brain, living their lives and just waiting for me to set them free on paper.

It’s a weird way to live, having all of these people inside. The difference between being a writer and having schizophrenia is that schizophrenia is somewhat treatable. When one suffers from multiple personality disorder, it is also somewhat treatable.

I don’t believe anyone has yet found a cure for being a writer. Though I believe the cure can be found in the pages of books where some of the world’s greatest, most enduring people have lived sometimes for centuries. Letting the characters out so that they can take up residence in a story is the only cure I know of. And it’s one I celebrate every time I meet another character in the walkways of my mind, when we happen upon one another, nod in acknowledgement, shake hands. It’s often at 2:30 in the morning, when all the best people and characters are living it out loud. 

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live out loud

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