Turds in Punchbowls and Three-Eyed Babies

I love co-writing!  There’s something so fun about seeing how one person’s idea can transform and grow into something bigger and better when two or more imaginative people let the concept percolate in their minds.  So in celebration of spending last Saturday night in the basement of a haunted manor-house with one of my co-writers, getting inspiration for a super-creepy screenplay we’re working on, I thought I’d share with ya’ all the 5 reasons I love co-writing!

(1) Your obsessive-compulsive tendencies don’t seem so strange.  I concluded long ago that most of the creative-minded people I know suffer from OCD on some level.  I mean, how else can you explain obsessing over a movie or novel idea long enough to complete the project?  And whenever I tell one of my creative friends how I have to do weird things like check the doors 20 times before bed and not only see that the door is locked, but also touch it and feel that it’s locked, they all either reply “Me too!” or “You think that’s weird?  I count the number of times I chew while I eat Oreos and I HAVE to end on an even number or I can’t swallow it!”

(2) You’re not floatin’ alone!  Honestly, being a writer can be lonely.  I can go days without leaving my house (or showering – sorry, it’s true), because I don’t have to go anywhere to work, unless I want to hide away from the kids at a local coffee shop.  And when I do go to social functions, I tend to be the one chattering on about haunted houses and ghosts or quietly eaves dropping on conversations around me making mental notes when I hear something that triggers an idea for a project I’m working on (yes, I do this, and if you are my friend and you think it’s creepy, I’m sorry – I can’t help myself).  I won’t lie.  Sometimes, when we’re with a group, I find myself thinking of myself as an analogy I kind of love to use whenever possible…I feel like a turd in a punchbowl.  But when I’m at a writer’s event, I fit right in.  Does that mean the punchbowl is filled with turds?  Maybe – but whatever!  It’s cool to be poop in punch as long as you’re not floating alone.

(3) You can express your immense fear of failure without feeling like a whiner.  Most creative people I know seem to suffer from a severe case of self-doubt.  Anxiety eats us up as we wait to hear from our agents or editors.  If my theory about creative folks suffering from OCD is correct, I’d guess that many others, like myself, spend too much time obsessing about the what ifs of a career in the creative arts.  What if my manuscript doesn’t sell?  What if the movie I wrote doesn’t find a home with a production company?  What if my art looks like something my toddler did after getting into her big brother’s watercolors?  There’s a whole lot of uncertainty in this profession, and the fear of failure can be overwhelming at times.  It’s nice to complain about such things to others who truly get it.  Of course your parents or spouse will tell you, don’t worry, your work is AMAZING!  But when you tell another writer that you had an anxiety attack that dropped you to your knees after your agent told you that an editor from a major publishing house requested your manuscript, they’ll probably say something more like, “Dude, I totally had one of those last week!  Thought I was gonna die!”

(4)  You’re not holding the ugly baby alone!  Sharing something you’ve created with someone is kind of like showing them your new baby.  Only there’s a strong possibility that an alien from another planet may have fathered it, and you’re not really sure if anyone else will find that bulging third eye or tentacle-like appendages as adorable as you do.  And you’ve shown others your alien spawn in the past and they’ve shrieked before politely telling you, “That’s very interesting.” (which we all know is code for, “good lordy-Moses, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve EVER seen!”).  But when you co-write you have someone else holding that ugly baby with you.  And when people avert their eyes from the hideousness of what you’re showing them, you can look at your co-writer and say, “Clearly, they don’t understand how cool alien babies are.”  And your co-writer can look back at you and say, “Yeah, let’s go show someone who’s not a total loser how awesome our alien baby is!”  And you can plod along together until you find that one person who has been searching for a three-eyed, octopus-esque baby for years.  And when they exclaim “This is amazing!” together you can say, “Exactly!”

(5)  You actually get to write WITH someone.  You get to bounce ideas off one another.  You can talk through your plot and characters.  Someone can tell you that a third eye and tentacles are cool, but adding an extra mouth on the top of your baby’s head with 4 rows of needle sharp teeth might freak people out.

Co-writing – I’m a fan!  While I love writing with someone, there are still moments when I enjoy writing alone.  Although, in my house, “alone” is a relative term.  Even when all the monkeys have finally decided to stay in bed, there’s always one “child” who never leaves my side.

Writing with my son's BFF, our pup, Indiana Jones.

Writing with my son’s BFF, our pup, Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones is a pretty good co-writer.  He never tells me my ideas are stupid and he keeps me warm.  🙂

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