As you’ve probably noticed, our blog theme for the last few weeks has been how to hang on to your sanity while writing. Perhaps you’re worried that it’s already too late for that and you have, in fact, gone round the bend.
When you’re a writer, the line between “normal behavior” and “crazypants bonkers” is often thin and hard to discern.
My family constantly jokes about me being nuts. I asked my son, “How will you know if I finally snap?” Him (in accusing tone): “When I find you staring at me with a knife in your hand.” Me: “For the last time, I was unloading the dishwasher! Quit trying to make it sound sinister.” My husband: “Yeah. Can’t imagine where he gets that overactive imagination.”
Overactive imagination, while problematic when I’m convinced there’s a monster under the bed at two in the morning, is a key qualification of the job. So are other quirks that might seem odd to non-writers.
Is it okay to hear voices in your head? If you’re a writer, it’s practically a requirement! I’ve got anywhere from twelve to twenty characters living in my brain right now, and it is LOUD in there. (Now, if the voices are telling you to sacrifice livestock in bizarre rituals or start your book with thirty-six pages of backstory infodump, it’s time to seek professional help.)
Is it perfectly normal to cry over the problems in fictional people’s lives…even when you not only created the problems but gleefully plotted them out? I vote yes. My husband might disagree, but this isn’t his blog post so he doesn’t get a vote.
Does it mean you’ve snapped if you find yourself thinking up ways to commit the perfect murder? Not if you’re writing a book with a suspense element. (Although I would say that actually meeting with a hit man, even in the name of research, is a bad idea.)
What about becoming a reclusive hermit with questionable hygiene? Is it a definitive sign of mental instability if you spend more time with your imaginary friends than your real friends? Nah, it could just be a sign that you’re on deadline. Finish your book, then rejoin the human race and thank your loved ones for their patience. (But first, for the love of all that’s good and pure, take a shower.)
“Normal” for writers just isn’t the same as normal for….well, normal people. But perhaps our talent lies in our ability to see the world a little differently, monsters under the bed and all. Fill your life with people who understand—or at least embrace—your particular brand of crazy and don’t be afraid to give sanity the day off.
** Tanya Michaels is not actually a mental health doctor. She only plays one online.