Since my friend Natale Stenzel filled in for me on my usual Monday shift as our guest blogger, I’m working at the diner this weekend (gotta make up those lost tips, you know).
For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about the perils and pitfalls of being a writer. I’m afraid to say I’ve experienced a little of everything that’s been discussed so far (professional jealousy, life interruptions, fear of public speaking, to name a few). My biggest pitfall is deadlinitis, which I talked about in an earlier blog, so I won’t bore you with it again. But coming in a close 2nd is Writer OCD.
Contrary to what you might think, Writer Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not the overwhelming need to have all my paperclips lined up in an orderly row or the mouse pad absolutely perpendicular with the keyboard (if you saw my house, you’d know right away I’m no neat freak). No, I’m talking about a neurosis many a writer suffers from but may have gone undiagnosed for years. It’s the need to make what you’ve written absolutely perfect before you can move onto the next chapter, or scene, or page, or paragraph, or sometimes just the next sentence or word. This affliction can slow the writing process down to the pace of a sloth on Valium. I should know, I’ve been a closet sufferer for years.
Writer OCD can show up in many different forms. For some, it may be OCCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Contest Disorder). Editors and agents complain they see a great deal of this. You know who you are – you enter contest after contest, taking the judges’ feedback and constantly revising and polishing those 1st three chapters until you could eat off them. Unfortunately, the rest of the manuscript reads like the room we toss all the junk in when company is coming over and close the door so they won’t see. The foyer and formal rooms (the 1st three chapters) would do Martha Stewart proud, but go beyond there to the family room and kid’s rooms (the rest of the manuscript) and the façade quickly falls apart.
Then there are those who suffer from OCRD (Obsessive-Compulsive Revision Disorder). These are writers who can’t move on with the rest of the novel because they keep changing and revising the beginning of the book. Typically, these people go full steam until they get to about chapter 6 or 7, then they come to a screeching halt, go back to the beginning and start revising those first 100-150 pages. When they get through revising those 7 chapters, they change their minds about something, go back to the beginning and revise again. This creates a yoyo effect where they go through this same routine over and over again, never progressing past chapter 7 to finish the book.
Then there’s me. I suffer from OCBD (Obsessive-Compulsive Backtrack Disorder). I get through the 1st draft pretty fast. The story is fresh and the momentum is high and my fingers fly on the keyboard. It’s down and dirty – mostly dialogue and action. Since I’m a plotter, I have a tendency to jump around in the manuscript, writing whatever scene/chapter my muse is interested in working on that day. If I come to a spot I have trouble with or I’m not sure what’s going to happen in a particular scene, I skip over it and keep on going. It’s the 2nd draft that gets me every time. That’s when I have to go back and clean up the hodge-podge mess I’ve made. This is where I tweak and polish until my eyes cross. I can spend all day on the computer and never get off the same page. My problem is that to get into writing mode, I have to back up (backtrack) a page or a scene or two and reread what I’ve done to get back into the story and the mood. Inevitably, I find something in there that needs ‘fixin’ and I can waste hours tweaking what should already be done and polished, and never get to what REALLY needs major editing and polishing. It’s a viscous, never-ending cycle for me. Someday, hopefully medical science will find a cure.
So, what type of Writer OCD do you suffer from?