Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why Writers Are Crazy

Stark Ravin' Mad?

It's no secret we're eccentric, but on behalf of  writers everywhere, I'd like to explain why we all seem to have bats in the belfry. There are a number of reasons why we're a little cracked, and it isn't our fault we're all nutty as fruitcakes. Yes, you've got me, I really wanted to see how many ways I could say we're all quite mad.

The Waiting

Is this clock BROKEN?

There is something you'll never never run out of as a writer, and that's the time you get to spend waiting. As an example, let's use the traditional route to publishing:

You finish your manuscript and polish it until it shines. All done! You mentally pat yourself on the back and send a query letter to an agent with the first three pages attached.

And then you wait to hear back. Maybe for months.

The agent offers and you accept! You celebrate with champagne and loads of chocolate cake. You've made it, you're all set! Now it's on to glory and fame and wads of cash, right?

Now your agent asks you to make changes and you do, then you send it back wait.

Finally the manuscript is perfect! Your agent is going to send it to publishers and they'll all dog-pile on it and throw cash at you and now it's time to start your book tour!

Nope. More waiting.

You've checked your email a bazillion times per day and finally after weeks and weeks someone makes an offer! Now you'll finally be able to go on that book tour and...

What? It's two more YEARS until the book comes out?

Ego Verses Self-Hatred

In order to survive as a writer you need a number of different qualities. One of them is the confidence to show your work to others. And I'm not talking about your grandma, who is going to tell you it's terrific and pat you on the head and feed you her famous apple pie. No, you have to have the nerve to send your work to literary agents. You have to have the guts to take something you slaved over for months, maybe years, and send it to an industry professional. You may imagine them sitting back at their mahogany desk, drinking scotch out of a short glass, smoking giant cigarettes and chortling over your pathetic attempts at writing, and you have to have the courage to send it anyways.

But most writers fluctuate between feeling extremely proud of their work, to hating everything they've written. Some of us every couple of minutes. I've found it's possible to go from, "This is awesome. I'm gonna be famous! I'll have a room filled with gold coins and dive into them like Scrooge McDuck" to "This is such utter crap. I'm going to fade away into obscurity and end up living on the street in a cardboard refrigerator box". And the first thought is usually followed by the second, sometimes in the space of an hour.

There will forever be a battle raging between your giant, King Kong sized ego and the Tyrannosaurus Rex that is your self-hatred.

Talking to Imaginary People

We can't help it. We can be lying in bed drifting off to sleep or in the middle of a serious conversation, and a fictional character will just waltz in uninvited, barging in the back door of our brain unannounced. These people aren't real to anyone else but us. No one can hear them or see them like we can. 

Wow, just explaining this is making me sound crazy. See?

The problem is, if we attempt to ignore the imaginary shadow people, they're very capable of consuming our minds. If we don't write about them they'll stalk us like sparkly vampires, following us everywhere, crawling into our bedroom windows at night to whisper in our ears.

We have to write about them, or we risk becoming crazier than we already are.

The Isolation

Writing is a lonely occupation. You sit at your computer screen and hash out a story all by yourself, with no one to help you. This is why many of us reach out to other writers on the internet. On great sites like this one we can find other writers to talk to and swap our manuscripts with. We meet beta readers, and friends.

But the fact remains that most "real life" people aren't really sure how the industry works. Some don't care. And anyone who has a near obsession realizes after awhile that everyone around them is tired of talking about it. 

Plus, your family probably doesn't want to hear extensive details about forementioned imaginary characters.

Occasionally we'll get out, wild-eyed and pasty from lack of sunlight, free of our computers. We gather in groups called "writers conferences". Sometimes we're even brave enough to walk around and talk to one another. 

Shenanigans often follow.

Then the conference is over and we scurry back to our solitary offices.

The Reviews

If all of the above isn't enough to make you crazy, the reviews will get you. If you feel that the isolation and the self-hatred isn't enough.... if you feel like being reduced to a quivering pile of tears and snot, you can always go google yourself, or read your own goodreads reviews.

The thing is, there will be five star reviews. There will be glowing praise and people saying your book is the most wonderful thing since pre-sliced cheese, but those aren't the reviews you'll fixate on. No, you'll obsess over the negative ones. You'll read and reread the ones that say you're a talentless hack. Maybe they're right, you'll cry, maybe I should quit this writing thing and take a job at Burger King. 

But before you end up crazy with a side of fries, you'll learn...don't read the reviews.

The Rejection

If you've entered the query trenches and come out on the other side, or if you haven't yet (especially if you haven't yet) then you'll know all about this.

Personally I sent out over one hundred and thirty letters while I was querying, not to mention all the short stories I've sent out. I could literally wallpaper my library with rejection slips. Wall to wall. No joke.

As a writer, you'll come to know the biting pain of rejection quite intimately. You'll grow so tired of form rejection letters, that you'll begin to cherish any small scrap of critique thrown your way, even in a rejection letter. Occasionally you get a rejection that drives you mental for a few weeks, with vague or cryptic commentary.

"The plot is too yellow."

What does it mean?

The False Expectations

There will always be shiny success stories that we taunt ourselves with. Pictures will run through our heads, we'll dream of fame and fortune, of attending the movie premier of our best-selling book, of waving to hoards of screaming fans, of leading those fans in a march against the white house and taking over the...what? Ahem, sorry.

The point is, there will always be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the one golden image we strive for. It might be sitting down with Oprah while she asks us about our billions of dollars. Or it might be a world book tour. But there comes a time when you realize that your rainbow is just refracted light. It won't support any weight, you cannot climb it and get to the other side. Billions of dollars? You'll be lucky to pay rent this month.

You come to a point when you realize that the road to fame and fortune is littered with the skeletons of people's dreams. You might not ever get there. How does it happen? Is it talent? Connections? Luck? You dream of a runaway best-seller, but there's no way to make it happen.

You have to balance your dreams with reality, or you really will go nuts.

So there you have it. I hope this explains, at least in part, some of the major reasons we all seem a little off. Why we appear to be rowing with only one oar in the water. Why we're all quite daffy. Why we've lost our marbles and screws...

Okay, I'll stop.

So what do you think? What gives you the crazies? Be sure to let me know if I've forgotten anything! 


  1. So utterly true.


    What if you're a parent of, say, ELEVEN kids (yes, I am)...and they suddenly start calling you by your character names? Yeah, that does me in.

    ...or you work so hard and long on a series, that when your wife walks into the room, she stops, looks around...and then swears she can hear someone else OTHER than me, talking in the room? I think the craziness rubs off.

    I came to ask for a book review--but stayed because I loved this article! Sharing, sharing, sharing!

    Jaime Buckley

    1. Eleven kids! Oh my goodness! I don't know how you manage to get writing time in! I'm glad you liked the article :)

      And I agree, the craziness must rub off at some point, hehe

  3. "The plot is too yellow..." BLAHahahahahaha!!!!!

    Writing is such an addiction, isn't it?

    1. It truly is. It's heartbreaking and agonizing and horrible sometimes, but as writers, we aren't capable of doing anything else. :)

  4. LOL about talking to imaginary people. I'm always doing that, sometimes in public catching myself.

    I'm proud to say I'm a crazy writer.

    Keep smiling,

  5. I've just recently gotten published for the first time. I was so first and then felt a little down because what if this is the only time I ever get published? What if nobody likes it? Does this make me crazy? I also talk to imaginary people and if somebody makes me mad I try to think of ways to kill them off in my next story.

  6. The crazies... how about making it available and not being able to get anyone to willingly read it unless you give it away for... wait for it... FREE!!! This is why they must coin us the penniless writer.

  7. I cracked up at the plot is yellow joke. I was reading with interest until then but BAM, you had me by my reader balls there. You could've torn them off I wouldn't have cared..
    I digressed a bit..Anyway.Great read.