Writing neurotica

by Diana

No, not Erotica.  I’m taking about the neuroses that plague writers. For the longest time I thought I was alone in being completely neurotic about anything and everything to do with writing, editing, publishing, conventions, etc. But after numerous conversations with other writers, I’m discovering that many (if not all?) writers have them.


You must have The Perfect Pen in The Perfect Color for edits.

No other living creature can be within a half mile radius of you when you’re writing.

You must have The Perfect Music.

You must have absolutely No Music.

The publisher is merely humoring you.

Your novel is complete and utter crap, and one of these days, everyone is going to notice. Most likely all at the same time.

Nobody really wants to hang out with you at conventions/conferences/events. They are all merely tolerating your presence out of pity and incredible kindness.

Your editor/agent whimpers and cringes a little every time they sees an email from you in their inbox. They also wonder how soon you can be legally ditched.

The people who have given lovely blurbs for your book have, again, done so only out of pity and kindness.

The people who have not yet given you feedback on your book, even though it as been THREE WHOLE DAYS since you sent it to them, actually have read it already and hate it thoroughly, and are trying to figure out how best to tell you that it sucks rocks.

Or, for the readers:

Hardback only!

Absolutely no first person.

Absolutely no third person.

Absolutely only second person stories told in present tense.


So, what are your writing or reading neuroses?


9 Responses to “Writing neurotica”

  1. May 3, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Have you ever read The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner? It’s a book about authors from an editor’s perspective. One of the chapters is dedicated to writer neuroses. You should check it out. 🙂

    I don’t have any major neuroses as a reader, except that I LOATHE hardback and trade paper isn’t much better. I prefer mass market, but I’ll take it new, used, worn out, original, reprint, whatever.

    I have a few serious pet peeves as an editor, but nothing that interferes with my editing process. As a matter of fact, I don’t even really have a “process”. I didn’t when I used to write either.

    Interesting. As crazy as I am, it’s almost disappointing to discover I’m not totally insane when it comes to reading, writing, and editing. 😦

  2. May 3, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Oh…found one…I do hate second person. I find it incredibly unprofessional. I don’t like an author addressing me directly. It’s rude. You you you…bleh. Yucky.

    And first person present makes me twitchy. I can’t read or edit those. They make me crazy.

    So yeah, I do have some quirks. 😉

  3. May 3, 2009 at 1:16 am

    My biggest is that even though I’ve written eleven books, I’m terrified that it was all a fluke and I’ll never be able to write a book again–especially not a good enough one for people to actually want to read.

    I write every book in that semi-state of fear while reciting affirmations over and over like “I’m a good writer.” “I have fresh, fun ideas that flow out onto the paper easily.” “Readers love my books.” “Editors and agents want to work with me and love my writing.”


    Even though it’s a tough way to spend my writing time, I think if I ever lose the neuroses and fear, that maybe it won’t push me to do better each time…lol. Gotta love the creative process!!

  4. 4 Tim Pratt
    May 3, 2009 at 1:16 am

    I’m a steely-eyed pragmatist when it comes to writing stuff; no rituals, not even any habits, just work-anywhere-whenever. (I used to be pretty good at working anywhere anytime; since I became a dad I’m *really* good at working anywhere anytime, because otherwise, nothing would get done.)

    I am, however, incredibly neurotic about my writing career, and assume at all times that I am about to be a complete, total, irredeemable failure.

  5. May 3, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Hahaha! I hadn’t thought of some of those yet! Now I have a few new neuroses to obsess over.
    The one I would add to that is that people read my work out loud at parties so they can laugh at how horribly I write.

  6. 6 mlronald
    May 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Let’s see…check…check…check…definitely check… How did you get into my brain?

    The “everyone is humoring you” is a major mindweasel at the moment, as is the “everyone will find out that it really sucks any minute now.”

    Ugh. I seem to be okay with the actual writing neuroses; it’s only when I feel blocked that I chase the resident organist out of the room and demand that my music be perfect, PERFECT I say.

  7. 7 mentatjack
    May 3, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    My biggest as a reader is an unhealthy obsession with electronic publishing … I love my physical books, but I ache a little bit inside when I think about the amount of energy that goes into producing them. Actual printing, multiple times being shipped, warehousing, and so on. However I don’t even own a Kindle yet, largely because of the cost. So I spend hours reading debate after debate about electronic publishing which eats into my limited reading time.


    As a writer my neurosis involves coming up with EVERY excuse imaginable to not send out the first couple of stories I’ve written …

  8. May 4, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I’m have a related neurosis, which is difficulty letting authors know that I enjoy what they’ve written.

    My concerns basically fall into two categories:
    1. That by even saying something I’m putting unwelcome pressure on them to create more.
    2. That expressing my appreciation doesn’t mean anything because they’ve gotten so much of it from so many people, and they’re just attending conventions/reading email because it’s part of their contract. Sort of that I’m imposing on them, and they’re just putting up with me.

    At conventions some authors have a nearly-visible “all you icky fan-people stay over there” field around them, which is bad enough (though granted, sometimes entirely understandable.) But I’m generally convinced that even the friendly ones are thinking “yes, yes, little dork. My work is amazing and you’re just another one of the masses to tell me so. Move along so I can get to the bar.”

    Even worse, when I encounter them at conventions that cater to those who write but aren’t yet published, I’m additionally convinced that they’re thinking of us as lame wannabes and snickering up their sleeves at us.

    So, I just stick to thanking them for the hard work they’ve put into creating great stories and making them publishable, and try to take up as little of their time as I can.

    And I guess now I have a new one – that even when I say thanks, they won’t believe me! LOL

    While I’m here, thank you Tim and Margaret, who have written books I own and love. I am waiting very patiently (without creating any pressure) for more Marla and Evie. 🙂

  9. 9 mlronald
    May 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    (Sorry for the late response!) Taerin, would it surprise you to know that I have the exact same neurosis — had it before I started writing seriously, had it before I was ever published, have it even now — about meeting authors whose work I like? It’s like half of my brain shuts off, and I’m only capable of saying “wow, you’re cool” if that. What I’m slowly learning is that the friendly ones aren’t just putting up with people. (Well, unless the people involved are being total jerks. But that’s another matter, and most authors I know aren’t the sort to suffer jerks lightly.)

    And thanks! I’m glad you liked it, and I’m waiting for more Marla, too!

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