The Schizophrenic Writer

I’m working on a difficult passage in which a man and a woman are each suddenly aware there is much more between them than either had believed a minute earlier. In these situations, it’s not words that bring power to the page, but the spaces between: the implied unspoken. Such scenes can be easily over-stated, devolving into pedantic exposition—he said this; she did that—for as much remains unsaid in life, the writing must mimic it, saying more with a look, a raised brow or pursed lips than dialogue ever can.

Yet, scant phrases can also create terseness, adding abruptness to a scene that should hover, lingering in the moment before it dissolves back into the mundane. Consequently, pacing is critical. Each word must be deliberated over. They are not arrived at easily.

Now I am a classic type-A. I cannot remain idle. When the words do not come, I feel I must be doing something. I remember I promised to wash the tile floors of my wife’s quilting studio and decide the work will help me think.

As I begin removing furniture, a thought comes to me. I run back to my office to write it down. Another idea manifests while I’m filling the bucket at the service sink and I’m off again. And as I begin to mop the floor, it occurs to me this might make an interesting blog post, so once again I scurry back to the computer lest I lose the concept.

It would be easier if I could stick to one thing or another, but I can’t—not when it comes to writing. Every time an idea arises, I run to jot it down, even if it’s a snippet of a thought, before I lose it altogether. I’m on fire, now. I can’t begin to say how many ideas I’ve lost thinking, “I’ll remember it later.” One never does. Or if one does return, it’s never with the force that bit you in the ass the first time.

My wife knows I’m crazy. Of that I’m certain, though she’s never said so to my face, kind soul that she is. What else besides insanity could produce such disjoined, frenzied activity? Yet I know this sort of madness must plague each of you to one degree or another. How often have you stopped while shopping in the produce aisle to scribble on the back of your shopping list? How many times have you gotten up while entertaining company, excused yourself, then returned a few minutes later after adding to the chapter you’re working on?

Face it. We’re all a little crazy, each in our own way. I, for one, think I’m fortunate to have found a socially acceptable way to manifest it.



8 responses to “The Schizophrenic Writer

  1. Hey Raymond! Speak for yourself, I’m not crazy!

    Great post, and I agree. I’m the same way, carry sticky notes and a pen everywhere because a spark for a story could happen at any time. My memory is terrible, so I have to write it down that second or I will lose the thought.

    One time, I was scribbling while crossing the street and nearly got run over — now that was not too bright (duh)…


  2. I’m afraid I would have to admit to being some what of a loon. I think you have to be more than a bit eccentric to believe you can be a writer. I don’t even leave the room to write an idea down. Hell’s Bells, I’ve been known to write one down on my hand or arm, or call home and have my wife write it down, because I am on the freeway! I hate getting honked at!

    Great Post, Raymond



  3. So what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t feel weird about jumping out of bed at 2 a.m. and rushing to my desk to scribble notes all over a whiteboard kept specifically for that purpose?

    (I use whiteboards, because if I wake up and the idea has lost its mid-sleep luster, I can erase it and pretend it never happened.)

  4. I have a great little phone app that allows me to record those ideas. And I keep a pad and paper in my purse. They do swirl around. I just can’t get out of bed though —
    to write them down.
    Just too tired.

    • Getting out of bed is almost impossible for me, as well. I did get up once, at 1:00 in the morning, to compose a poem. It came out complete. Finished. And I returned to bed in fifteen minutes. It’s still one of my favorites. That, however, was a rarity.

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