So I listen to private conversations and watch people when they aren’t looking my way. I’m a loner, which makes that sort of creepy. I’m a psychiatrist, which makes it almost pathological. But life fascinates me, as do the millions of living (and some not-so-living) creatures that surround me, and yeah, I take notes. I write everything down. I draw pictures too. Not impressive pictures, far from impressive, and most people who see these pictures tell me to stick to writing, but hey, it’s all there. Want to remember what we talked about ten years ago, when we sat in that bar and you’d had that bottle of wine? I’ve got it. I’ve got all of it.
Funny how writers do that. We obsess about catching the world on paper. Some of us can’t organize our thoughts without pen and paper. We participate in existence from a distance (when we aren’t getting ourselves in trouble), recording all the stunning, ugly, vulgar, and unusual things we do, things other people do, and then feel better for having it recorded… on paper. It’s as though reality doesn’t happen unless it’s recorded in print. A trace of life solidified.
And then you get to fiction. That’s when things get interesting. We stop writing about reality and start making things up. So I’m a psychiatrist: I know make-believe worlds can be dangerous. Especially when you spend as much time in them as I do. But I call myself a writer, an author, even, and try to believe that being a writer makes it less… pathological.
Pen touches paper, new worlds spring into existence. New worlds? What the hell? What about this one? That’s what it’s about, no? Life’s variables play out page upon page, solving equations so complex there’s no solution, tearing reality apart and putting it back together again, yeah, whatever. And hell, then we share that with anyone who’ll listen. Maybe we can move those around us to ACT.
Sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? That’s the catch-22 about writing. Anyone who thinks their ideas are important enough to “influence” others (which writers usually like to think), never mind make them ACT, has to be downright arrogant indeed. But what’s this about sharing ideas? Ask any writer. We’re terrified of sharing ideas. We’re a sensitive, emotional lot. Our ideas are tied to our souls, and the moment someone casts us a strange look when we share an idea (it doesn’t even have to be a disapproving look), we crumple inside. Crumple! See the issue? We don’t want to be anonymous. We want to be heard. But we need everyone to treat those words gently, as though they’re the most important things ever uttered in history, otherwise we become basket cases. An interesting phenomena, actually.
That said, could you be my friend? Please? No, don’t answer that.
Alex Natalian is a penname for psychiatrist KRR.