Friction

Why is it that we writers have problems explaining to others that we’re trying to write? Why is it that other people just don’t understand? I think I might have an answer. Take a look at this:

Priorities

On the left, we have a list of important things around us in daily life—for example, Day Job, Food, Coffee, and (of course) Writing. And they’re arranged here in the order many writers would agree with. The most important things are at  the top, so Writing is just below the Day Job (marginally more important because it pays for the stuff you need to write—computer and software, or a typewriter, or pens and paper, or parchment and quills; they all cost cash), and dealing with a burning house is more important than that—if only because a burned-out house means you have to write in your local Starbucks, which might not be too comfortable (their appalling choice of ambient music being a real concentration killer, and all that).

So-called “Normal” people, of course, have their priorities all screwed up, as can be seen from the line on the right. To them, Food is more important than Coffee, for example. But the real problem for us is that Writing is way, way down on their list of priorities. Yes, this means that to non-writers, Food is more important than Writing. Hard to believe, I know, but then these Normal People are a weird bunch. (Note that the Day Job is at a slightly lower priority for the Normal Person; that’s because your Day Job is not as important to them as their Day Job.)

As we writers know, Normal People think we have the same priorities they do (strange, but apparently true). And this is where we get a problem. The bigger the difference between a Writer’s priority for something, and a Normal Person’s priority for that same thing, the more Friction there is. And as you can see from the diagram, there is a big difference in the priorities for Writing. We writers put it up high, where it belongs. Normal People put it lower than scrubbing out a trash can.

And this is why Normal People just don’t get us. You’re writing, and other people can see you’re writing. You’re doing real work, and it takes focus, and getting into and staying in The Zone means no distractions. But a Normal Person looks at you and sees someone messing about, not doing anything vital. And there are trash cans that need scrubbing. Cue the Friction.

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