I think writers, pretty much all of them, suffer from mental illness. How can it not be an illness to build and destroy worlds in your head? Or to murder people, or decide who falls in or out of love, or which child lives and which one dies, or any of the other things that go on in our twisted little heads on a daily basis?
We walk around talking to ourselves and we actually listen to the voices in our heads.
On any given day we may carry on both sides of an imaginary conversation, out loud, in the produce section of the local grocery. I suppose that could be just me, but I doubt it.
I think we are all one traumatic event away from Multiple Personality Disorder.
Add to that all of the unknowns, and we become riddled with anxiety. Can I get published? Should I do it myself? What makes for a good query letter? A good blog? A successful platform?
So we look for guides. We read books on craft. We search out mentors and gurus. We register for classes, attend conferences, check web feeds and do a million other things to help us figure it out.
But all of that work? Can make us more crazy.
Because we have no single savior. We simply have more voices.
One voice says we must plot our stories carefully. Pin boards, timelines, character studies and conflict resolution all must be neatly ordered and in place before we begin.
Another voice urges us to just write. To get words out first, then clean up the mess.
Wait! All these voices – where in Hell did I go?
That question brings its own angst. And is possibly the reason it seems many writers fall on the extreme ends of any given personality index.
Some writers seem to compensate for the competition to self by being themselves, in the loudest, most opinionated, most blunt way possible – this is me, like it or suck it.
There are a number of others that fall into the more introverted end of the spectrum – spending so much time with the head people, that they don’t interact as fluidly with real ones – wait, did I just say that out loud, or did I think it, then pause to edit without ever opening my mouth?
And of course, I’m sure there are a wide array writers that are perfectly adjusted, normal individuals, with no imaginary friends; no random, vocalized sentence fragments, and nary an existential crisis in sight.
But I’ve never met one.
Perhaps they’re hiding from the rest of us.
*Seriously? Anne Lamott doesn’t have a website?