My younger husky has had the distinct pleasure of being sprayed by a skunk, not once, but twice this year. In fact, she has gleefully pursued him as part of her “evening patrol”. As I was cleaning her up the second time, it struck me how being sprayed by a skunk has similarities to writing fiction. Thus I offer you the list, instead of the less than savory dialogue going through my head as I doused her with hydrogen peroxide, Dawn, and baking soda.
7 ways writing fiction is like being sprayed by a skunk:
1. You don’t choose it, it chooses you. You may have been wandering around the yard of life looking for something new, or relaxing on a lawn chair, sipping a tasty beverage when wham! you’re hit. Either way you’re marked, and you’ll never forget it.
2. It permeates everything you are. Ears, mouth, eyes, skin. Writing fiction changes the way you view the world, the way you touch it, and vice versa. It’s how you will leave a lasting mark.
3. It can bring out the worst in you. And that’s good. Even the most beloved protagonist isn’t all hearts and flowers. As the author you have to take your characters where they don’t want to go. Face their less than glowing side. Having something evil like skunk spray drifting incessantly through your home courtesy of your furry cherub can evoke some mean emotions. Harness them, and unleash your maniacal self on your fictional peeps. Sorry, friends.
4. You can’t get rid of it. Ever. While your pet (or worse, you) will hopefully never be sprayed again, the memory of your eyes watering from the corrosive nastiness and the metallic taste in your mouth is enough to bring it all back. It’s now a part of you – lessons learned, life experiences – it all matters. You can run, or you can write about it.
5. Sometimes you wish you could undo time. Just go back to right before you were sprayed and walk a different way. Contrary to popular belief, being a writer isn’t easy. Achieving traditional publication ever more challenging. Yet if you’re a real writer, you can’t give up. Fictional peeps won’t let you. They’ll even send the skunk your way if you ignore them. Jerks.
6. People may turn up their noses at you. Usually this is for one of two reasons: 1. They would never waste their time writing something so trivial as fiction. They’re far too important. (Never mind they read it! On vacation, on the subway, in the dentist office . . .) Or 2. They feel they could write a book if they ever tried. Yeah. As a legit writer you don’t have the luxury of such arrogance. You’re too busy wallowing in self-doubt, with nothing but the company of a stack of rejection letters and your smelly self as you finish a rough draft at two a.m. (See, you become nocturnal too.)
7. When you’re around other writers you’re so freakin’ happy to have mutual understanding you don’t notice the smell! Writing fiction brings you into company of some of the neatest, kindest people you’ll ever meet. If you let it. I’d rather be smelly and know them, than not at all.