Writing is an emotionally draining and solitary business. You spend hour upon hour alone with your thoughts and fantasies, doing your best to order, re-order and transform them into coherent stories people will want to read. Like any other endeavor, you have good days and bad days. Sometimes you feel exhilarated; at other times you feel frustrated and exhausted. As they say, it goes with the territory.
My wife has noticed what she's called "carryover" from a day's writing. She can tell if I've been working on an intense scene or chapter -- one with plenty of action or anger, or one brimming with life-altering (even murderous) conflicts between characters. She picks up on the energy writing has generated within me. It doesn't simply dissipate when the day's writing is finished. It carries over for a while.
Linda says she can tell from my mood where the writing has taken me: Whether to a love scene, an interchange between close friends, or a violent confrontation (verbal or otherwise) between characters in the novel I'm writing. It's not that I become the characters I've been dealing with all day, but some of what makes them real spills over, at least for a time, into my life.
Linda can tell whether or not I've had a good or bad day writing. It's not very different from what any spouse can perceive about a partner's day. But, maybe it's even more pronounced for a writer. My boss and unforgiving taskmaster is my imagination.
My characters and their dynamisms derive from some hidden (or maybe not-so-well buried) place within me. They flow from my thoughts, fantasies, feeling and experiences. I cannot "leave them behind" at the office.
Writing is demanding -- even depleting. Although I don't commute to a job, I'm at a desk in my home, all day, every day. I don't take a day off. Ever.
When I practiced psychiatry, I also worked in a kind of isolation. Seeing patients was never a true social connection. It would have been inappropriate to share my personal life. The nature of psychotherapy prohibits social interaction. After all, you are not a patient's friend. When I had a private practice, I relished opportunities to get out and socialize with friends. However, as a writer, I find the work immensely satisfying, but emotionally draining. As a carryover, Linda has noticed a decline in my willingness to spend time with dear friends. After enjoying a good meal at home, I want nothing more than to settle in with a book, surrounded by my dogs, until bedtime.
This is not the case for every fiction writer; after all, Elaine's (the once-famous New York eatery) used to be packed every night with literary luminaries. But for me, creating conflict-driven characters, placing them in daunting situations, providing them with action-oriented dialogue -- using my imagination and telling high-octane stories of suspense and tension -- seem to have spilled over into my real life.
I won't be surprised if Linda posts a "Do Not Disturb: Writer at Work" sign on our front door. I'm glad she loves and understands me and the characters I create.
Mark Rubinstein is the Author of Mad Dog House and Love Gone Mad.