Thursday, August 30, 2012

Novelist Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia looks like it's spelled wrong, even though Google assures me it's correct. I for one am not going to question our Google overlords, so let's just go with it.

I'm in that weird place where I swing wildly back and forth between positive affirmations for my novel, to soul sucking despair. When you're doing any sort of serious editing, there's really no in between. You either sit down happy to put words to the page, or the minute you open Scrivener, you think of a million other things that have to be done right now.

I have the attention span of a hamster at the moment, so that just makes it worse. There are so many things I mean to do and forget to until I am in the middle of something else. These things range in importance from clipping a hang nail to paying a bill, so when I remember stuff while writing, the urge to take care of this other thing gets really strong. Unlike rocking my son to sleep, I can actually get up from the computer.

If I was a normal person, I could simply write this stuff down in a list and take care of it after I am finished writing. But depending on what I remembered, it turns into an itch that won't go away until I scratch it. Like that hang nail. I wish I was kidding, but it really bothers me when there's a catch on my nail. It bothers me so much that as I am writing, this is what is going through my mind:

"I really need to show how scary this zombie is...that hang nail won't go away."

*picks at the nail. It only makes the catch deeper*

"I really have to remember to cut it the next time I get up to pee. Back to the scene. But what if I forget? I keep forgetting to cut this darn thing and it's really starting to get on my nerves."

*bites nail. It only makes the nail ragged and gross looking*

"Damn, that's not any better. Now it's really going to bother me. Maybe I should just get up and cut it. No. The last time I did that, I got distracted and mopped the kitchen floor, made a sammich, and then remembered about the writing. Then I sat down and had to pee. No, I am just going to ignore the ragged nail and keep typing. Zombies. Think about the zombies."

So I think about the zombies for a little while, but the pressure to get up and cut the nail increases until it's like a klaxon in my brain...


In the case of the hang nail, I gave in and cut it (I am sure there's a diagnosis and/or medication for people like me, but I prefer to just blame it on being really tired for about nine months now (But Liz, you say, your kid is only six months old, how can you be tired for longer than he's been alive? To which I say, thank you hypothetical person, for asking and noticing how old my kid is. Also, you don't sleep that last trimester of pregnancy. You're so big by that point that when you lay down, the baby sort of pushes up on your ribs and lungs, and mine decided that kicking was a fun way to past the time at night. So there's the other three months accounted for.)).

Now I've lost my train of thought, and I keep staring at the periods and parenthesis wondering if I have enough of them and they are properly placed. So we're moving on now.

For other stuff I just have to ignore it and keep writing. It's harder when the writing feels like crap, and it's pointless, and it's never going to get better and I am never going to amount to anything and everyone is going to be so disappointed I am going to have to physically move away even though this is the Internet and global warming is probably my fault too.

But seriously, you just have to buckle down and write. Even when you feel like it's crap, writing can be like a parachute. Writer's block? Write some words. Feel like it's all pointless? Keep writing, and eventually it will feel pointy again. Don't know what happens next? Write some words and make it up as you go along. Bored with the book in general?


You write some words, but man, add in something awesome. A nuclear-virus bomb explodes in Washington. Add a llama. Force feed a character with a nut allergy some peanut butter. Shake things up.  

Above all, when you have a million voices in your head chiming in about your novel, only listen to the nice ones.

The rest of them can take a hike.

So, what do you do to quell the voices? Besides medication, I mean. 


  1. I've been struggling with lack of focus and sloooooow writing all month. Then I got sick. While traveling. Fun! (Not.) And so, suddenly, it was three days before Camp NaNo ended, and I was about 15k behind.

    I don't really have any useful advice. With me, my crazy NaNo-only ambition to win kicked in and I am now "only" 6774 words away from 50k. Despite a fuzzy, congested head. Basically, I just kept writing, no matter what. Action scenes work best. I had my characters try to save a kid's life and be kidnapped as a thank-you. It helped. ;)

    Anyway, now that I read your post I can't stop thinking that I really need to cut my nails. Thanks for that! ;)

    Also, can I count blog comments toward my NaNo goal? No? Really? *creeps back to novel in tears*

  2. Hey, i got there through the HTRYN forum, I saw your post about Road Trip story structures and tangents, and thought your story looked cool, so here I am!

    I am in exactly the same place as you right now!
    I'm on my final revision of 'Flux' and I am wondering where the hell all my drive has gone. My first revision I was a MACHINE, I couldn't wait to sit down and work and watch stuff morph before my eyes. Now, I sit down and do one scene and its like my brain thinks that's a big deal. "Well, you've done one, breaktime!"

    I started writing a new scene like two weeks ago, and haven't touched it since, i think I need to take your advice, shake something up and put something crazy in it to get it done. I definitely need to hit the ground and roll, try and gather some momentum.

    Maybe i'll try the pomodoro technique and allocate a number of pomodoros I HAVE to spend writing each day, since the 'just write when you want to' method isn't working as well as last time. People say ten minutes of freewriting is helpful too, I might try that.

    Definitely going to have an 'interruption list' on the table (the pomodoro technique has a specific system for dealing with those times your brain wants you to get out of your chair, but you know you should keep working) to try and combat the flight instinct.