Have you ever wished you could peek inside a writer’s mind to learn why it does what it does? Of course not. You’re basically a decent human being, and you would never stoop to the level of prurient interest required to peek behind that veil. There are far more socially acceptable activities you could be doing instead.1
But maybe, every once in a while, there’s a piece of you that looks at a writer in the throes of creative activity, and you can’t help but ask yourself “why? Why that? Why that now?”
For those of you who have secretly asked yourself this question, the following may be of interest. It is, essentially, a transcript of a conversation I had with myself, once upon a time, when I decided to commit to something. For those with courage, determination, and a tolerance for foul language, read on for a peek at a very important part of my creative process:
Internal Monologue #57784
I’m going to write more.
THAT’S GOOD. YOU’VE BEEN WANTING TO DO THAT FOR A LONG TIME.
Yeah, well, Pay Me, Bug! was a good experience so I’m going to keep publishing in serial form. It’s going to be an Official Thing I Do.
GOOD FOR YOU. YOU’VE BEEN PUBLISHING A WEBCOMIC LONG ENOUGH. THERE’S NO REASON YOU CAN’T DO WEBFICTION AS WELL.
Yeah, so… the only thing is…
DON’T BE SHY. WHAT’S UP?
Well, my next project isn’t finished yet.
SO? IT’S A SERIAL, ISN’T IT? I MEAN, IT’S PRETTY COMMON FOR THOSE TO BE STARTED BEFORE THEY’RE FINISHED. THERE’S NO SHAME IN THAT.
HELL NO! NOT TO US, ANYWAY.
Great! Then you’re totally fine with my next project being a sort of Charles Williams-inspired Southern Gothic Modern Fantasy told in a style that is absolutely contrary to the way I’m most comfortable writing?
CHARLES WILLIAMS THE INKLING?
CHARLES WILLIAMS THE PHILOSOPHICAL THINKER THAT BOTH C.S. LEWIS AND J.R.R. TOLKIEN LOOKED UP TO AS A MENTOR?
Yep. That’s him.
… YOU’RE TRYING TO EMULATE A WRITER WHO WAS LOOKED UP TO BY TWO FAMOUS AUTHORS, ONE OF WHOM BASICALLY DEFINED AN ENTIRE SUB-GENRE OF FANTASY, ANOTHER WHO NOT ONLY CREATED AN ENDURING AND BELOVED CHILDREN’S FANTASY SERIES BUT WHO ALSO CREATED ONE OF THE GREATEST FICTIONAL ACCOUNTS OF HUMAN TEMPTATION THAT WAS EVER WRITTEN? A WRITER WHO WAS KNOWN FOR VERY COMPLICATED, METAPHORICAL WRITING THAT EXPLORED COMPLEX THEMES INVOLVING HOW HUMANS INTERACTED WITH BOTH THE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORLD?
Yeah, that’s the guy.
AND YOU’RE WRITING IT AS SERIAL FICTION. ON THE WEB.
AS A FOLLOW-UP TO A SMART-ASS SPACE OPERA INVOLVING A CHEEKY DRUNK AND A HYPER-INTELLIGENT BUG.
AND YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED IT YET.
WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF FUCKING IDIOT OR SOMETHING?
NO, I’M SERIOUS. DO YOU HAVE SOME KIND OF GODDAMN MENTAL DEFECT THAT MAKES YOU DO STUPIDLY OVER-THE-TOP, UNATTAINABLE THINGS? CAN’T YOU PASS UP ON A FUCKING WINDMILL-TILT JUST THIS ONCE?
… Well… no, not really.
THAT’S IT. I’M OUT.
I QUIT. I CAN’T DO THIS ANY MORE.
Wait a minute, you can’t quit. You’re my inner voice.
YEAH, WELL, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET SOMEONE ELSE TO DO YOUR VOICE-OVERS FROM NOW ON, BUDDY, BECAUSE THIS OBVIOUSLY ISN’T WORKING OUT.
Now just a–
LOOK, I WENT ALONG WITH YOU DECIDING TO DO A WEBCOMIC, EVEN THOUGH YOU COULDN’T DRAW YOUR WAY OUT OF A CONNECT-THE-DOTS PAPER BAG. I WENT ALONG WITH IT FOR ALMOST SIXTEEN YEARS AS YOU SUPPORTED ALL THESE CRAZY-ASS CAUSES LIKE OS/2, THEN FREE SOFTWARE, THEN LINUX, THEN THE CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. I WENT ALONG WITH YOU DECIDING TO PUBLISH THE SPACE OPERA AS A SERIAL, AND THEN WITH GOING THE SELF-PUBLISHING ROUTE, BUT THIS… THIS IS JUST MIND-WARPING, DOG-TELLING-YOU-HE’S-SATAN LEVEL PSYCHOTIC IDIOCY. I HAVE TO ASK AGAIN, WHY DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO GO FULL-TILT AT EVERY GODDAMN WINDMILL YOU SEE?
Well… for one thing, you tell me to.
Yeah. Who’s the dog now, man?
I mean, it’s not like these decisions are made in a vacuum. I’m minding my own business, trying to focus on getting married, and my inner voice says “you know what would be funny? A webcomic about the computer industry, only instead of jokes about how the customer is an idiot it would be about how all the industry does is make excuses for why it can’t do anything right. Sure, you can’t draw, but we can work around that.”
I DON’T REMEMBER SAYING THAT.
OK! I REMEMBER IT! BUT I DIDN’T MEAN IT! I WAS JOKING! I WAS SURE YOU’D KNOW I WAS JOKING.
And then when I was thinking about going into serial fiction, but I wasn’t sure about it, who was it that said “what are you so afraid of? You don’t have any issues with your webcomic, and you can’t even draw. You know you can write.”
… TRUE. I DID SAY THAT.
So don’t talk to me about my idiotic decisions. You’re responsible for at least half of them! We’re in this together!
… BUT I–
Don’t even think about backing out now. You’ve been my inner voice for almost 41 years. You think anyone is going to hire you with that resume? After the decisions we’ve made together?
… PROBABLY NOT.
You’re stuck with me, Jake. Either we succeed together and you find vindication, or we go down in flames. Together. As a complete laughingstock. There is no middle ground.
You understand me?
… I… I GUESS I’LL GO LOOK FOR ANOTHER WINDMILL.
You bet your ass you will.