The mountain of biology homework I’ve been slowly climbing out from underneath may or may not have driven me completely off the deep end. In order to dig my way out from under the mountain, one of the things I had to do was research Toxoplasmosis, a lovely parasite spread by cats with world-wide influence.
Somewhere along the line, as I was wrapping up this research, my highly caffeinated brain went ‘aha! Writers are like parasites!’
Now, before you call me crazy, here’s my reasoning:
1. Writers take inspiration from other people. Just like parasites feed off of the organisms they live inside, writers feed off of the society they live inside. How many writers do you know who have based novels off of a sentence or phrase they heard in passing? Writers take their nourishment, in the form of inspiration, from others, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. Continuing with the biology analogy, fanfiction writers are like viruses, which cannot survive on their own because they can’t make their own food. These writers, more so than any others, need access to other writers’ playgrounds in order to flourish.
2. Writers cannot survive without society. I can almost feel your resistance on this one. You might be thinking ‘hell, if the apocalypse came tomorrow I’d be fine, I’m prepared’. Perhaps I should have said that writers cannot thrive without society, because that’s more honest. Without society, there is no one to read our work. Without society, there is no one to listen to our stories. Without a host, parasites die–how long it takes varies greatly from parasite to parasite, but they all need hosts. Writers, like parasites, cannot be completely independent. We need the readers to provide us with income and reviews, and we all live for the moment when a random person comes up to us and says “hi, I read your book and I loved it”.
3. Writers are all different. You might not realize it, but there are hundreds, probably thousands of kinds of parasites. Each one has its own unique features and lifespan. Different parasites prefer different hosts. Just like parasites, there are all different kinds of writers. Writers can be divided along the lines of genre, then again along the lines of sub-genre, and sometimes even along the lines of sub-sub-genre. Writers also come in all different shapes and sizes, ages and genders. Finally, just like parasites, each of us has our own unique quirks, in our voice and our writing process as well as in our more general lives.
Finally, a writer is like a parasite because it’s one tiny individual in a much larger world. A parasite may be one out of every hundred cells; a writer may be one out of every hundred people. While sometimes we think we are the most important people in the world, we need to remember that we’re just one part of the big, clinking machine that is society, and even more importantly that we’re just one part of this world. Parasites probably think they’re important too–and who knows, maybe they are.
The less obvious lesson I’d like to leave you with is that analogies can come from anywhere. Blog posts can come from anywhere. Novel ideas can come from anywhere. So the next time you’re buried under a pile of paperwork, look through it and ask yourself “how can I use this experience in my writing?”