Write It Sideways

3 Warning Signs Writing is Driving You Batty

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.  ~Graycie Harmon

Lately I’ve been noticing a few interesting symptoms creeping up on me, those that suggest my writing and reading are starting to drive me batty.

Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

1. Overactive Imagination

Recently, I was up in the middle of the night feeding my 4-month-old son, when I heard a crash downstairs. Something falling.

My first reaction to things falling in basements is always one of unfounded worry (how do things just fall over by themselves?), but I shook off the noise and reminded myself it was only my imagination. Still, to make my silly self feel just that extra bit safer, I shut the hallway door behind me–as if that would help anything–and fumbled back into the dark bedroom with my sleeping son.

As I laid him down in his crib, suddenly I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming from behind the closed door–a foreign voice. A shock of terror rushed through me. My whole body went hot. My heart fell into my stomach.

There was someone in the house.

In an instant, I was at the bed, seizing my husband by the neck, whispering frantically, “There’s someone in the house! Wake up! Wake up!!!!!”

Because I’d only heard one voice, my first thought was that someone had wandered into the house, drunk perhaps, talking to himself, looking to cause trouble.

Of course, when my husband searched the house–bleary-eyed and not the least concerned about my hysteria–he came up with nothing. All the doors and windows were still secure.

In the end, we figured it was my 7-year-old talking in his sleep (he does that often), and his voice had simply carried down the hall from his own bedroom. Because the crash from downstairs had put me on edge, my mind had misinterpreted my own son’s voice.

The next morning I discovered the crash downstairs had been made by a mostly-empty laundry detergent bottle I’d propped upside down on the shelf, to get the last of the soap out.

Did I mention my husband’s first words were this: “What have you been reading??”

2. Hearing Voices

I’m sure I’m not the only writer with this problem: whenever I’m doing something, or watching something happen, I hear myself narrating in my head.

As I’m preparing dinner, I hear, “…she held the cool potato in her palm, peeled back its mottled brown skin…”

When I’m holding my baby, I hear, “…the child lay in her arms, listless and damp with fever…”

While I yell at gently remind my husband to take out the garbage, I hear, “…he rolled his eyes, continued to scan the front page of the newspaper as if he hadn’t heard her…”

As you can imagine, this becomes very annoying after a while.

Sometimes, a potato just needs to be a potato.

3. Paranoia

For some reason, if I’m writing and my husband or 7-year-old walk in the room, I switch off Scrivener and pretend I’m tweeting or checking the weather forecast instead. (Just in case they might be reading over my shoulder.)

When I write anything by hand, it usually ends up crumpled into a ball and stuffed under yesterday’s dinner slops in the garbage can. (Just in case they might see it there, pick it out and read it.)

For some reason, I insist on naming my electronic files things that aren’t actually the names of the stories I’m writing. (Just in case they might see the titles and know what I’m writing.)

In reality, my family probably couldn’t care less what I’m writing about, but I’m still paranoid about them reading it, especially before everything’s done and polished.

It’s mine, mine, mine.

All mine.

How Batty Are You?

Sometimes, especially at night (when the house is really dark and spooky), I wish I didn’t have an overactive imagination. I wish I didn’t hear a voice in my head saying, “…her heart fell into her stomach. There was someone in the house.”


And then again, sometimes I just say, “Hey, I’m a writer. I’m a little weird. So what?”

Do you suffer from these same writing-related problems or other similar ones? What drives you the craziest? Are all of us creative types our own worst enemies?