The OCD Writer

This has been on my mind lately, so I’m blogging about my lack of sanity rather than writing any short fiction. Hope you, my dear reader, can cope with that. I’m not really OCD, although I do have enough OCD tendencies from my anxiety and PTSD that I can leave lots of checkmarks on any OCD checklist. So, I suppose this title is a bit deceiving, especially if your only notion of OCD is repetitive hand washing and such things.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know that I periodically make mention of the novel I wrote. Yep, I’m one of those wacky folks who not only had a gazillion documents in various stages of completion on her hard drive, but I even finished one. Thank you, btw, for not asking me how it’s been going with the “get that thing published” process. Because there’s so much more to getting a book published than most folks ever know.

So far, I’m most interested in pursuing traditional publishing. What that means is getting an agent who will then submit my revised manuscript to industry editors most likely to be interested in my novel.

Along the way, I’ve had some great, as well as conflicting, feedback from a variety of sources about my novel and so I’m faced with a decision. Do I give my novel another revision or just keep querying in hopes that some time before I die I find an agent who loves my novel enough to represent it?

And most of my published writer friends have given me the same advice: Keep writing. Write something new. Start a new project. These are rock-solid gems of advice.

Except for one little thing about my pesky brain. I can’t let go of my novel. All these new book ideas and their files on my hard drive are just sitting there, languishing. Because the thing that I can’t let go of is “what did I do wrong with The Blue Dress?” What do I need to do to fix it so that I don’t make those same mistakes on a new project? Because one thing my personal version of crazy has going for it is the absolute fear of making the same mistake over and over.

I do know that the truth is, maybe I didn’t do anything wrong in my novel. Literature is so subjective, that perhaps I just haven’t shown it to the right person. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there right now who could love it so much as it is written that they would fight for it. Or maybe it needs more fixing before it can be loved that much.

It is the unknown that is really hard for me.

Sure this is the book writing business, but at this moment, it is far too  much like worrying about whether I’ve left the iron plugged in, or turned off the sprinkler, or set the alarm. Those worries, those what-ifs eat away at me so much that I can’t focus on anything else. And so here I sit, stuck.

I have been writing, and I have tried, really tried, to stop worrying about The Blue Dress. But when obsessing about things is how you function even on a good day, being in this place as an unpublished novelist is a very twitchy experience.

I vacillate between “just keep querying the dang thing” and “trunk it” (consider it a failed book and put it away permanently). Some days, just thinking about my novel makes me cry. Other days I believe in it enough to keep trying to get it traditionally published.

Today I’m thinking about making a blanket fort and hiding under there with a jar of Nutella and a spoon. The only thing keeping me from getting out the blankets is the knowledge that all that darkness will just get me thinking about my characters and their lives and wondering if I really did them justice in telling their stories.

So I put back the blankets in the cupboard and put the spoon back in the drawer. And I open my manuscript and try to find what it is that I did right and where I went wrong and try to see if I can make it something that someone else can love enough to fight for it. Because I just can’t let it go.

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5 thoughts on “The OCD Writer

  1. I have a novel I wrote even before SEND that remains my favorite story. I queried it and got nowhere. I shelved it and wrote SEND. That got me an agent and even after i signed, I still couldn’t say goodbye to my cast of characters in “Borderlines.” There are a lot of things wrong with BORDERLINES. Because I can’t let go of it, I use it as my reward for finishing other deadlines. “Write 1k words for WIP and then you can go revise that awkward love scene.”

    This helps me move on without giving up.

  2. That doesn’t sound like all that much fun, probably because I can clearly imagine myself going through the same kind of mental turmoil over that.

    It sounds like you are probably doing as well about it as can – I would think as long as you continue working on something, whether it’s that book or another project, you will still be making forward motion.

    Sometimes even holding one’s place as opposed to going backward could be considered a forward motion in that one is moving forward through time, through experiencing, to some next thing.

    Thanks for sharing this, Kristina

  3. I hear an either/or in your reasoning process. Either you trunk this and move on or you keep working on it. I know from experience that there is middle ground. You can set this writing aside for now (not at all the same as trunking it or *egad* admitting failure).

    Sometimes working on another project helps you learn the skills necessary to come back to a more difficult writing project and do it justice. The next writing you do will improve Blue Dress when you come back to it.

    The process isn’t just about the book. It’s about the writer.

    It would help if all our writing ideas had a difficulty guide, like the kind we see in knitting books. Too often we begin with the most advanced pattern and then think we’re stupid when we can’t do it. It’s okay, necessary even, to back up and tell an easier story. Easy stories are not less meaningful or less valuable. Perhaps, in their own way, they are more valuable–because they shape the writer sufficiently to tell that highly complex story when the time is right.

    Follow your heart, but stay open to falling in love with another story. They’re more like kids than they are like lovers. Monogomy is not required. You can love the next story without giving up on the first.

    • Jeez-Louise, I would SO have loved to have had either one of you for a writing a English teacher. Of course the fact that I’m a decade and more older than either of you kind of makes that a chronological improbability. 😉

  4. Sound painful? It is. I’ll bet it also sounds super familiar to a lot of you. Authors are under a ton of pressure to get it right. And instead of being mitigated once you have a reading public, it only gets worse (à la the sophomore novel problem ). Not only do we have to write something that’s good enough to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace, we also have to write something that will optimally keep us from gathering too many scathing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

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