Friday, August 21, 2015

Are Writers Certifiably Crazy?





This article is satirical and is not intended to offend anyone in the mental health community - my apologies if my humor is misunderstood.

The symptoms are getting worse. I wake up at night, my mind racing at a frantic pace, the ideas flooding me with a tidal wave of creativity. Afraid that I will forget something, I race downstairs to jot some notes so that I will remember everything in the morning. When I come to the breakfast table, I find my laptop surrounded by a sea of sticky Post-Its.

My sleepless nights might be considered a bad thing, but for me - a writer and author - they are very, very good. I write a lot in the dark hours, if you accept that coming up with ideas is a vital part of the writing process. Between these bursts of creativity, I manage to get in some actual sleep as well. As tired as I may be the next day, physically, mentally I am alert and hyper-awake.

Here is what is happening to me: Besides getting inspiration while writing in my sleep, I also find myself daydreaming, but that's normal. As other authors will be certain to confirm, daydreaming is part of a writer's job description.

The problem, for me, is when ideas burst upon me when I am in the shower, or while driving my car. At first I had a notebook next to the steering wheel; I would long for traffic, or a red light, so that I would able to write down keywords suggestive of the things that raced through my mind.

Now my smartphone got a bit smarter – I installed a voice recorder. I am capable of recording a quick message while driving. At home, these recordings, and the concepts they represent, will be transferred to my computer for use in future writing.


How does one put up with a writer?

Jumping out of bed at night to write a plot line on a sticky note comes at a price. Each time I leave the bedroom it disturbs my wife's sleep. I have begun leaving my phone next to my pillow. When I wake with a brilliant idea at three in the morning, I jot it down as a note in my phone. "I can hear you tapping," my wife whispers to me.

Why is this happening to me? Am I going crazy? Maybe this is a side effect of the antibiotics I have been taking to treat a seasonal case of pneumonia. My mind needs to slow down. I need bed rest! But, I can’t afford to sleep. I need to keep writing. I have never felt more alive, more creative. I am in a desperate race to express myself, to help these ideas take full shape as components of the articles, reviews and fiction that I am currently writing.

If you see me sitting quietly, not talking to anyone, that means I am hard at work on my novel. I am probably listening to conversations, desperate for real life dialogue that I will incorporate into my writing. As I walk down the street, I stare at the people passing by with plans to steal their descriptions for my characters. When I hear my colleague at work tell a joke, I question whether I can retell that in my story.

Everything happening around me is candidate for inclusion in my creative writing. I absorb life like a sponge, ready to create a new life on paper. I can’t stop. This writing process controls everything I do. It is part of my every breath.

Once I get my ideas finalized, and once I get my words typed into my laptop, I take a deep breath. I know that I have done well. This is just a first, initial draft, after all, but editing will bring my writing to life and that is a process I fully enjoy.

There. I have finished relating the tale of how crazy I must be. Thank you for reading this. Maybe now I can try to get back to sleep.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Related articles:

Daydreaming Is Part of a Writer's Job

Writing In My Sleep

Why I Prefer Editing a Novel to Writing One

6 comments:

  1. Sounds very familiar. I'm currently desperate to get a first draft onto paper and have a lot of your symptoms. Will pick up the pieces later :-)

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  2. I am interested to understand what you mean by your blog title, in particular the word "crazy". Are you suggesting your creative process represents a diagnosable mental health condition?

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    1. Don't take my craziness too seriously. In this case, the blog title is a literary description of what happens to a person in the craze phase of writing a novel!

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    2. The careless use of words such as "crazy" trivialises the experience of people who live with mental illness -- your account resembles in certain regards a manic phase of bipolar disorder -- and is something I do take seriously.

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  3. Great article Ellis! Glad I'm not alone. Writing a new novel and for some reason, the muse only working the wee hours (2:30-5:30 am). I'm exhausted during the day. But, not to write……can't be done.

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  4. Most of my best story ideas come from dreams or nightmares I've had, bubbling up from my subconscious. So sleep is essential for me. If I start dreaming that I'm writing, that could short-circuit the whole process.

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