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


  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 :-)

  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?

    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!

    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.

  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.

  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.

  5. Yes,there definitely comes a point when a writer feels as if he or she is living in a parallel universe - and in the other, lives an eye-rolling family.

  6. I am incessantly thought about this, thanks for putting up.