“Am I really a Writer?”

Mindy Newell isn’t just a writer, she’s an all-round writing pro extraordinaire, with a resume to die for. And here she is asking herself the Writer’s Eternal Question, just like all the rest of us. What a world, what a world….

FreelanceWritersTips
by Mindy Newell

One of the doctors I’ve worked with once asked me “What’s it like to be a writer?”

I guarantee that every single one of the columnists here at ComicMix has been asked that question, or a form of it, quadrillions of times.

The mother of one of my daughter’s friends: “Where do you get your ideas?”

A co-worker at my day job: “So what do you do? They give you the comic and you put the words in those balloons?”

An old boyfriend: “You get paid for that?”

My mother on the phone, back when I was a full-time freelancer: “What do you do all day? How can you sit in your pajamas until 3:00 in the afternoon?

Mom on the phone again: “I’m sorry to bother you. Are you typing?”

The answers:

“What’s it like to be a doctor?” (Cracking wise.)

“I don’t know.” (Case in point: last week’s Bizzaro column. Where the fuck did that come from?)

“Yeah.” (I used to go into a full-scale elucidation of the full-script method, which is similar to writing a movie script, except that in a movie script very little art direction is given as the writer pretty much leaves that up to the cinematographer, whereas in a comic script the story is broken down panel-by-panel with instructions to the artist of what is happening, which can range from “Superman hits Doomsday,” to detailed descriptions of what the man standing behind the woman in the crowd watching Superman hit Doomsday is wearing – and you should read one of Alan Moore’s scripts for anything he’s ever written if you really want see and understand what I’m talking about – and dialogue or captions or thought balloons vs. the “Marvel-style” of writing comics, in which the writer breaks down the action into page-by-page descriptions of what’s happening in the story, after which the editor sends it to the artist to – oh, never mind. I know you’re getting that bored look, just like the questioner, who would blank out on me within ten seconds of my explanation, just like I know you’re doing now.)

“Yes.”

“It’s 3:00?”

“Yes, Mom, I’m typing.”

I think all writers go through this type of third-degree in one form or another. Yes, even Pulitzer Prize winning novelists like Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love), Toni Morrison (Beloved), Michael Cunningham (The Hours), and Bernard Malamud (The Fixer).

And the funny thing is, those questions from co-workers, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, and parents: What’s it like to be a writer? Where do you get your ideas? You put the words in the funny balloons? You make any money at that? What do you do all day? How can you sit around in your pajamas ‘til 3:00 in the afternoon? Are you typing? – are the same questions I think all writers ask themselves.

Fer shur I’ve asked myself those questions. Many a time, and over and over.

And I have a confession to make.

I still have trouble saying “I’m a writer.”…

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