Alexandra Sokoloff Talks to Us: Writing is My Insanity

In keeping with the title of May’s blog, I thought the topic for my
guest blog was pretty obvious.

My Insanity–is writing.

People always think it’s so cool when you tell them you’re a writer.
These are clearly people who are not writers. Writing is a really
startlingly crazy thing to do–it just doesn’t always look like it from the outside because it involves so much, well, sitting. But what goes on inside my head–WHO in their right mind would want to be inside my mind?

So why do I write? That’s absurdly simple–I can’t help myself. It’s a ompulsion. I know I’m not alone, there, because I know writers. My friends are writers, I work with writers in the WGA, I run a message board for over 1800 professional screenwriters–so I
know. Writers run toward the neurotic, the anxiety-prone, the
obsessive, the compulsive, the obsessive-compulsive, the bipolar – and
often all at once. (See Kay Jamison’s excellent TOUCHED WITH FIRE for an analysis of the creative temperament and bipolar disorder.)

In fact, I’m quite sure someday someone will identify writing as a form of OCD and there will be a simple medication we can take. Not that most of us WILL take it, of course, because like bipolar people, we writers get off on our disease.

And yes, I think writing, actual writing for a living, is a disease.
Because, look – it’s certainly not EASE, now, is it?

An artist friend of mine recently asked me what was the biggest
sacrifice I’ve ever made for my art. This is a good question. There are a million sacrifices, all the time.

But my actual answer surprised me. My biggest sacrifice has been peace of mind (and possibly my immortal soul, but that’s another blog. Actually it’s my next novel. Well, all right, never mind.)

Here’s the perfect example of what I’m talking about. My first book, THE HARROWING, http://alexandrasokoloff.com/ comes out this weekend. My first book. Everyone keeps asking me, “Aren’t you excited?” Well, aren’t I?  MY FIRST BOOK. Published. In fine bookstores near you. I should be on Cloud Nine.

Instead, I’m still frantically arranging different promotional ploys.
I’m trying to keep up with the whole Internet thing (The Dark Salon Blog, MySpace, Writer Action, my own website). I’m trying to pack for my tour. I’m reaching out to libraries. I’m trying to figure out Vertical Response so I can send out an announcement. I’m putting the last touches on my second book, THE PRICE (due in to St. Martin’s on Sept.1), and already, compulsively, outlining the third one.

When do I just stop and celebrate?

The answer is–I won’t. I won’t STOP, anyway. I’m certain to do some celebrating at the many conventions I’m going to on tour this fall. Thank God for conventions–they make me feel I have something resembling a life. In fact, by the time you read this, I’ll be in New Orleans with my friend and soul-sister Heather Graham at her Writers for New Orleans Workshop, talking with Heather and Christine Feehan and Cherry Adair and Deborah Leblanc about vampires and ghosts and other things we love that go bump in the night and taking ghost carriage rides and performing some spooky, sexy musical thing with Heather again for the Saturday show. So, you know–it’s not that I can’t party with the best of them. Since I know that’s coming, I can delay some gratification for another week, right? Maybe the actual definition of professional writing is just that: delayed gratification.

And when I actually, finally HAVE to celebrate, I’m pretty darn good at it.

I asked a friend of mine (who as a retired librarian and library
liaison of Sisters in Crime knows everything there is to know about
authors and the book biz) if it was weird and abnormal of me to be so NOT excited, and she said that it probably had a lot to do with the fact that (as a screenwriter) I’ve been in the writing business for so long, now.

It’s true (and I was relieved to hear someone else be so logical about it.). I’ve made my living at writing for a good long time, now, and I know that the external satisfaction is fleeting and insubstantial.

So if seeing my book in bookstores is not the payoff, and if good
reviews are not the payoff, and if being contacted for TV and radio
interviews is not the payoff, and having total strangers write me
(already!) and tell me how much they loved my book is not the pay off (although I have to admit that’s pretty startlingly wonderful!)…

What IS the payoff, exactly?

The payoff is simply–FINISHING.

I write because there are these people inside my head who are so real to me that I can’t rest until I make them real for other people.
Because for some reason I feel an immense, endless obligation to these people–to let them out of my head into the world.

I do all this endless, constant, obsessive thing I do – for the sake of IMAGINARY people.

How crazy is that?

But that–is the only–fleeting–peace.

That’s my insanity.  And I love it.



THE HARROWING – now available from St. Martin’s Press

Alex is taking questions, so feel free!


4 Responses to “Alexandra Sokoloff Talks to Us: Writing is My Insanity”

  1. September 3, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    I knew it! We are all crazy people!

    You know, not being excited might not be a bad thing. You won’t be needing Valium at least. 😉

  2. September 8, 2006 at 2:54 am

    We’re all crazy, yes. Nothing like stating the obvious, right? 😉

    After New Orleans this weekend and now Savannah, I’m excited, believe me! Once it all starts, it’s easy for me to just go with it.

  3. September 8, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    *Not that most of us WILL take it, of course, because like bipolar people, we writers get off on our disease.*

    OK, I’m not sure how I feel about this. Well, I am sure but I’m trying to play nice. Myself included, I haven’t met any bipolar people [or any other disorder] who “get off” on their disease. We may be open about it, especially with other people who have the disorder, but get off on it? There’s not a day I wish I didn’t think of dying or any of those other things. I don’t see how I can get off on those thoughts.

    oh and hi milady! thanks for stopping by the blog and I will ebter that contest! (^_^)

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