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06 January 2016

An Acceptable Form Of Schizophrenia


I recently stumbled across this quote by E.L. Doctorow.

I liked it.

It spoke to me.

It had kind of a sharp, piercing little voice, but I guess that's what got my attention. So, I listened to what it had to say.

"You know all that really weird stuff and random nonsense that floats around in your head, banging on the walls of your cranium and giving you migraines? Just put it into words, type it up and call yourself a writer. Sure, society will still think you're a nutter-butter, but at least you'll be a socially acceptable nutter-butter."

Of course, all of the voices in my head started jumping up and down and pushing each other out of the way to shout out weird stuff and random nonsense in response.

"Man, keep it down over there! She hasn't even her first cup of coffee yet."

"EL Doctorow - who is this guy anyways? Why is he calling us weird and random?"

"Jeez. How can a quote you saw on a computer screen speak to you? It's just written words, it can't talk to you. You just read it. Quietly. To yourself. Can we get some coffee over here?"

By this point, I had started to have enough. And, I had still only had one cup of coffee.

"All of you - settle down this instant! Is it any wonder I get migraines, what with you idiots constantly yelling at each other and banging around inside my head. Just let me get another cup of coffee and I'll have a think about this quote."

I got another cup of coffee. And a cookie. Cookies and coffee really go well together.

I thought about things. I thought about writing. I thought about schizophrenia. I thought about why I like this quote.

Curious? Well, here's the deal. Over the past month, I've been feeling really schizophrenic about my writing. Not my blog writing - that's always a bit schizophrenic. Which doesn't really matter as it's just a series of disjointed posts which don't need to hang together and be coherent. I let the little voices in my head have free rein here on the blog. They're like little kids - they need to burn off energy so that they fall asleep at a decent hour.

But, when it comes to writing a novel, it's a whole different deal. You really need consistency, continuity and a general sense of harmony. Things should hang together. You shouldn't feel like a million different voices have ganged up to write the novel. Unless, of course, that's what you're going for.

Remember how I had my big NaNoWriMo fail? I was supposed to write a 50,000 word draft novel during November. Didn't happen. So, I got an extension from my mom (she hands them out by the way in case you need one).

It's January now. I'm still not done. Because things are all over the place. Those little voices inside my head have been having a field day. They've been experimenting with different styles, voices and ways of writing scenes. They've been playing around with adjectives and adverbs. They've been writing very short sentences and very long sentences. To be honest, it's a bit of a mess.

In general, it's been fun. We've got some creativity going on over here. It's all tickety-boo. Except when I worry about the lack of progress on the novel writing front due to this whole schizophrenic approach to putting words down on paper. I think I'm going to have to put the little voices in my head in the corner for a bit of a time-out so that we can wrap up this first draft during January.

I have no idea what E.L. Doctorow meant by his quote. I'm fairly certain my interpretation is far from the mark, but it got me thinking about the chaos and disorder in my writing and what's holding me back. From what the voices in my head tell me, that's what really counts.

So, now over to you. Any thoughts or tips on how to shut the wee beasties up and get some focus? Also, advice on how to wheedle yet another extension from my mom would be most appreciated too.

Linked up with the lovely folks at the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

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22 comments:

  1. First drafts often look like this. It will seem different once you're done and have a firm footing on the end and where everyone lands up. Don't worry so much and try to go with it. Like you said its fun and creative. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. I'm trying to go with the flow, but sometimes I just want to see more progress. But, a fair number of people have said that this is what it's like with the process of a first draft, so I need to try to keep that in mind that this is kind of normal.

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  2. Writing is so different for everyone. Nano doesn't work for everyone, but what's cool about it is the permission to just write and go for it without overthinking. If you're newer writer, there's a thrill in those early drafts where you're discovering your voice, your path, and your story. It's a fun journey!

    Here's my January IWSG post

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  3. I think you should throw all those yelling little minions in your head a huge party. Get them all drunk and then let them sleep it off. Perhaps then you can think straight.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Now, that's some of the best advice I've had! Get the minions drunk :-)

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  4. Find a way to lock those little voices away and you'll be in good shape. Find a way to help other writers lock theirs away and you'll be rich.

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    1. That's true - you could make a small fortune if you could figure out a one size system for shutting down the little voices that works for all writers.

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  5. I don't deal with the voices during the daylight hours, but damn, they sure plague my nights. They are invasive and brutal, telling me how awful my writing is, how no one will ever understand, let along like what I'm putting on paper. I have not found a way to silence them, but I have found a way to live with them. I make promises to my day time self.I never make a change or write in a direction that comes to me at night. It isn't trustworthy, and rarely is it honest.

    When I was writing my fist book (still unpublished, so take this with the proper amount of salt), I was all over the place, trying to make loose ends fit, twist plot and character, bend them into something consistent. It was a waste of my time, and didn't work at all. What did work was writing without regard, throwing caution to the wind, trusting that this ridiculous work would pay off. The first draft was sloppy for sure, but once it was done, the threads were there and the path was clear. That approach may work for you, it may not. If I've learned anything about writing, it is that all of us do it differently. Best of luck.

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    1. Very interesting perspective about nighttime voices vs. daytime self. Mine actually talk to me during the day :-) and want me to keep trying new things. Which I guess isn't a bad thing, but it sure does slow things down.

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  6. I always find it interesting what jumps out at me whenever a read a blog post because it's hardly ever the main point. Today it's cookies. And coffee. But most important, the relationship between cookies and coffee and the overwhelming desire I now have for both! At the same time, any desire I may ever had (or not had) to write a book, has flown out the window. Best of luck!

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    1. And perhaps that was the true point of the blog post - cookies and coffee. BFFs of the food world :-)

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  7. Back when I was a semi succesful painter, meaning I had shows,but no income, I discovered Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto, manifestoproject.it. I still find it helpful. The gist is creativity is what is important. Do what you need to create, Sales, prizes and accolades are not the end we should pursue.

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    1. You're a very wise man Bill. I'll check out the Incomplete Manifesto - thanks for the tip!

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  8. Hi Ellen, I like this quote too, it makes perfect sense to me and I think other writers are probably the only people who understand what it's like having all these voices and people in their heads. Let them out - put them down on paper and see what happens!

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    1. Thanks for popping by Angela and your support!

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  9. Have you considered scheduling appointments with the little voices? Put aside an hour or so to just let them go wild and blurt out whatever they please. Then, they have to be quiet so you can focus. It works with small children, it might work with small voices.

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    1. That's a very good suggestion Elizabeth. I think it is a matter of more discipline for the little voices, as well as for me.

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  10. What a thought provoking quote. I definitely have many voices partying around up there in my head. I wish they would learn to talk one at a time so I could focus better:)
    Good luck with getting the words out of your head and on paper!

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    1. Thanks Doreen! They do need to learn manners - only one should talk at a time :-)

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  11. I love the quote :-) I do spend quite a bit of time talking in my own head with imaginary people, so I get where he's coming from.

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    1. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who has voices in their head. Thanks for popping by!

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