I'm a writer. And I'm weird and neurotic. And if you're a writer, chances are, you're pretty weird and neurotic too.
Fight against it all you want, but it won't help. Even those writers on twitter and facebook with awesome looking photos, where they look all put together and not weird or neurotic looking, are pretty weird and neurotic. They're some of the worst. I know this for a fact because neurotic people tend to hang out with other neurotic people and those people just so happen to be my friends.
I mean, let's break down the definition of neurosis shall we (Signs and Symptoms taken from Wikipedia):
anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.
Anxiety? What writer out there doesn't feel anxious. What if I say the words QUERY LETTER--don't tell me your heart didn't skip a beat or two. Now top that off with the revision process, waiting for feedback from critique partners, beta readers, your agent or editor. That's a whole lot of anxiety right there. Do they like it? Do they hate it? Do I suck? I suck, don't I? I knew it. I knew it!
Sadness of depression? We've all been there, probably several times over. The rejection process itself can place me in a funk for days. The whole road to publication is a wild up and down roller coaster ride. I've been up, real high up there--my novel on the desks of editors at major publishing houses--only to be dropped real low--when my agent decided to quit the literary business. Talk about depression.
Mental Confusion? Where do I go from here? Give up? Keep going? Should I self-publish or trudge back up the hill of traditional publishing one more time? Am I even any good at this? There are SOOOO many writers out there, how in the world am I to even compete? Should I even bother? I'm so confused.
Lethargy? What writer hasn't been lethargic at one time or another. Crap, I feel lethargic right now. I sit at a laptop for hours. Sometimes I can even write a sentence or two. Most of the time I just look comatose. I've even bought a fancy pair of exercise clothes to use as pjs so that when someone shows up at my door at three in the afternoon and I haven't bothered to dress or shower, I can at least pretend I look like I've been productive.
Habitual Fantasizing? Okay, I think this shouldn't be a sign or symptom for writers. So ignore this one. We are writers, for heavens sake! We fantasize ALL DAY LONG. It's called using our imaginations and creating new worlds. So this part of neurosis I embrace. Fantasizing is awesome.
Negativity and cynicism? Many times it's hard to remember the great aspects of being a writer and why we do it--for the love, because we're compelled too. It's easy to think of EVERYTHING that holds us back from achieving our dreams, everything that stands in the way, the statistics of successful authors to that of authors who publish but never sell more than a handful of copies of their novel; book stores closing; publishing houses not buying anything; agents quitting. I have my share of cynical days. Crud, all I have to do is pop on twitter for a couple of hours and see all the writers trying for publication just like me and I become a cynical cuss. Competition is tough and the window of opportunity small. Glass half empty, folks. Been there, done that.
Perfectionism? This is the part of my neurosis that just about does me in. I could edit forever and ever and ever. I could never publish a thing because I know myself. I know my work has to be as close to perfect as can be. I also know that perfection could never be achieved, yet I will always strive for it. I get hung up on scenes in my writing that need revised and I can't push past it until I do. Perfection cripples me.
All I know, is that every writer who is hoping to get their work into the hands of readers who will enjoy their words is a basket case. From the time of conception, our novels weighs on our mind, our characters sit perched on our shoulders, shouting out stage directions and plot design. You sleep, eat, breathe your novel, every minute of nearly every day. Even when it looks as though you're doing nothing but staring at a blank computer screen, or look as though you're actually listening to your significant others words, you are writing--in your head. Plot holes plague you to the point of insanity. Stupid plot holes! If only you had a moment of silence, you're CERTAIN the answer would come to you. You're positive. Just give it a second. Don't talk to me while I think. AND to top it all off, as a writer, you never know if what you write straddles genius or stupidity. If someone says you're a genius, you think them a liar. If someone calls your work stupid, you think they're too dumb to know anything. Bunch of idiots.
I know I'm neurotic. I get it. I woke up last night at three am to write on my zombie book and fix a section that I worried I would completely forget once morning came. Then I woke up this morning, looked at it and thought, "What the heck? Who wrote this crap?"
I could sit at my laptop, all day, writing and hanging out with my characters and be a very happy person (fictional friends galore). I like caffeine and lots of it. Multicolored sticky notes, in various sizes, makes me giddy. When my copies of The Writer or the Writers Digest come in the mail, all life stops until I have read them from cover to cover. I can go days without cleaning when I'm writing a rather emotional scene and showering . . . ha,ha,ha, forget it. When I hurt a character I love, it really pains me. My novel Desert Rice really caused me emotional strife--I hurt my characters a lot--and I had a hard time separating myself. I think I even cried a couple of times. I don't think non-neurotic people cry over fictional people.
I probably should take medicine. I mean, I meet a lot of the signs and symptoms of a neurotic person. Anyone else who wasn't a writer who suffered from the above would be on meds. But if I took medication to ease my anxiety or lessen my need to be perfect, I risk the possibility of losing the little voices in my head that compels me forward. I love my voices. AND, I may do something stupid such as self-publish a piece of my dribble before ensuring my grammar is in check and all plot points have been completely covered. That would be horrible. Shivers.
Ahh, maybe being neurotic is a good thing. Maybe, as writers, we need to be somewhat neurotic to be successful. I'd like to think so anyway.
What do you think? Do you embrace your neurosis? If you do, then let's totally be friends :) BFF's
8/1/2011 05:17:07 pm
What a great post. You nailed it right on the spot. I'm getting my query letter together now. My anxiety is so high right now, I keep going over and over with my letter. Aww, that's were perfection has come in to play. Will I send my letter out soon? YES! But wait I have to check it again. I love having friends who have all these attributes. It makes for great company.
8/1/2011 08:10:23 pm
You understand me! And I understand you! Oh my- this silly padded cell of our craft. You should've been out there on Twitter last night when we were talking about Synesthesia. We're all a little nuts, every one of us, but I think we writers are just a little more forthright with it!
8/1/2011 10:44:43 pm
I love the workout clothes thing. I need to do that. Neighbors probably think I suffer from some sleep disorder or mental condition when I go out to take the puppy for a potty walk and I'm wearing Spongebob pj's at 2 pm.
8/1/2011 11:46:01 pm
What a great post. I think this sums us up perfectly. I know it felt like I was looking in a literary mirror. I had never thought my myself in those terms, but now I read through them, especially the definition of Neurosis it is spooky how much of me it captures.
8/2/2011 05:48:34 am
Okay, you made me snort soda out of my nose! *ouch* You bought fancy workout pants? That was brilliant! *note to self- sleep in workout clothes* As a mom and a writer this could come in handy.
8/2/2011 08:48:27 am
I wonder if writers see the beauty in the gloom...
8/2/2011 12:10:57 pm
Man, you nailed it. So glad it isn't just me. It won't, for a second, stop me from being that way, but at least I know I'm not alone. :)
8/18/2011 02:49:08 am
Know how you feel.
Okay, so now I finally know what's wrong with me. That pretty much describes me.
8/21/2011 03:08:05 am
Absolutely agree. Thanks for sharing!
8/30/2011 01:09:48 am
I am just putting this out there because it seems relevant. I don't necessarilly subscribe to it. About 10 years ago I went to a conference on Learning and the Brain. There was a talk on the relationship between artistic creativity and mental illness. According to this professor, about 15% of artists (of any stripe) have serious mental illness such as bipolar, schizophrenia, or major depression. That means 85% do not. Interestingly, one of the most "stable" artists she encountered was a trompe l'oeil artist — someone who strives to create an illusory realism. Ironic, isn't it?
8/30/2011 01:14:15 am
I completely 100 percent embrace my craziness...though we won't tell my insurance paid therapist that. ;) I've never used drugs, and refuse to even contemplate them. I do, however, own a lot of home workout equipment including a 6 ft tall punching bag (not the husband), and a 6'2" sparring partner (the husband). Whenever I'm feeling particularly neurotic I workout. A lot.
8/30/2011 01:39:48 am
So nice to know I have an excuse to be the way I am! And that I'm not alone. Fantastic post
1/18/2012 10:33:17 pm
What a delightful post. I loved it. Have you gotten inside my head? Are you spying on me? Oh wait, you're another writer...that explains it!
1/18/2012 11:27:09 pm
Whether I'm crazy or not depends on which side of the brain I woke up on, LOL! I'm a scientist one day, analytic and perfectionist editor, and the next I'm writing song lyrics in verse instead of my next adverse scene. No wonder my MC has a split personality. Both my halves are paranoid procrastinators when it comes to querying. Great post!
1/18/2012 11:55:07 pm
I used to get through my work day by day dreaming about my story line and writing ideas down on scraps of paper. I've even been kept awake at night by plot problems, and have woken up with ideas often enough I keep a note pad and pencil by my bed (though half the time I can't make out my own scribbles). Sadly, I never considered that I was neurotic. I just thought I was weird. Good to know I'm not alone.
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