All writers, like all cats, are neurotic. It comes of alchemically combining pieces of your soul and life experience into some amazing simulation of life and thrusting it out into the word for approval and profit. The stress of the process as well as the pain of exceedingly personal rejection generate enough tics and twitches for a dozen Siamese cats.
I admit to all of them, but I am convinced of the saving grace that I have one more coping mechanism than neurosis, though it might be one less. It’s hard to tell. Here is my Jacob’s Ladder of Escalating Neuroses and the story of how the latest almost had me crawling into the grasp of Evil Incarnate.
1.) Can I Come Up With a Decent Story?
Early on, writers obsess about being able to write a good story, an original story, a worthwhile story. Napkins, paper placemats and Moleskin notebooks get filled with snippets of plot until something gels. The only way around this is to work up stories, by the dozens if necessary, and let them ferment in your backbrain. If you are not widely read, Google “clichés” to check if it has all been done too many times before. Don’t spend a lot of time talking them out with friends and relatives, because that leads to Neurosis #2:
2.) Can I Get It Done?
Talking about what you’re going to write, is not writing. Obsessing out loud about a plot reduces the needed back pressure to facilitate your vomiting your brain’s contents onto the page. The only way to combat your neurosis about finishing stories is to finish stories. Rewriting them a few times helps with Neurosis #3:
3.) Is This Total Crap?
The short answer is “No”. Nobody’s story is total crap. The unfortunate/scary thing is that it is guaranteed that someone out there WILL think it’s crap. That is the nature of taste and free will. All you can do is refine your storytelling and your style to point that you don’t cringe at what you wrote the day before. The Mythbusters proved that you can polish a turd, and somebody will think it could make a lovely paperweight. This leads to Neurosis #4:
4.) Can I Get It Into Enough People’s Hands?
Being published by a small press with limited means has encouraged my neurotic writer brain to engage in some fairly spammy behaviors in the few weeks since my book dropped. I plead temporary insanity on that and promise to cut way back. But I still feel the need to try to get the book under as many eyes as possible to make it a success. This is what lead to the whole Evil Incarnate thing.
My wife and I had been involved with a convention for a very long time; we actually met there. Things got ugly and we left, but not before the leader took a shot at us through our dead daughter. Perhaps it is libelous/slanderous to refer to that person as Evil Incarnate, but I’m not using names. Besides, the point of this story is not what they did, but what I was willing to do.
The convention itself is of negligible importance anymore, but it still had a few hundred sets of eyes for my new book. I had worked myself up, under the influence of Neurosis #4, to seriously considering attending it for publicity, in spite of the insult to my daughter’s memory and the pain it caused my wife. She even supported my decision because she knew how important my first book was to me. Fortunately, I came to my senses before going through with that plan.
It’s fine to be neurotic and a writer. It’s almost a prerequisite. Just keep an eye out for who in your life your escalating neuroses might injure.