I’m biting my fingernails. I don’t know if I should tell you this or not. I don’t know what you’ll think of me if I do. I’ve racked my brain for hours, and I’ve lost sleep over trying to decide if I should share my secret. But then I wonder if you already know. Some of my close friends know because I confided in them, though they might possibly have already figured it out. Most of them are okay with it. Really. At least I think so …Most of them understand and are even empathetic. At least I hope so …
Okay, I’m just going to take a deep breath and tell you! Here goes!
I’m very, very neurotic. There. I said it. It’s the truth. I’m neurotic and most writers are! No wait, that’s such a blanket statement. Please, if you’re a writer who isn’t neurotic, please don’t take it personally. I really didn’t mean to insult you or anything, and I hope you’ll forgive me and like me anyway.
My neuroses are many, but I have two biggies. The first is guilt. I feel guilty for watching three episodes of The Tudors on an evening when the Work in Progress is waiting untouched on the computer. Just because I wrote all day long doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have written a few more hours. Being a member of the international guild of neurotic writers means I always feel guilty, and if I don’t, then I feel guilty for not feeling guilty. I feel guilty for not writing enough. I feel guilty for writing too much and not keeping up with the housework. I feel guilty for needing too much sleep when I’m sure I should be writing. I feel guilty for not being able to sleep when I do go to bed. And since I can’t sleep shouldn’t I be up writing? Or cleaning house?
My other biggie is that I worry. I worry all the time. I feel guilty if I’m not worrying because surely I’ve missed something important or I’d be worrying. I worry that someone won’t like what I’ve written, and if they don’t like my baby, I worry that maybe they’re right not to like my baby and maybe my baby really is ugly and I just can’t see it. And if they don’t like my baby, maybe they don’t like me either. I worry about sales, I worry about promos. I worry about deadlines, I worry about rewrites. I worry about what will happen if I wake up in the morning and can’t think of a single word to write. I worry if my tomato plants will get blight this year, and I worry about the strange noise that comes out of our water heater periodically. My husband says I worry over just about everything. Still, I worry that I’ve missed something.
Guilt and worry. Those are the biggies. There are others. Lots of others. I’m afraid of loud noises too, and I don’t like rubber bands, but those are fairly innocuous compared to guilt and worry.
So now that you’ve heard my confession, here’s the part where when life gives me lemons I make lemonade. I write neurotica! That’s it. You heard me right. I write neurotica. It’s sort of a ‘physician heal thyself ‘tactic, really. It’s a case of me projecting all my lovely neuroses onto my characters and watching the crazy, twitchy, unbalanced fun unfold. Come on now, I can’t be the only writer who does this, am I? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing anyone. Really! I believe you if you say you don’t do that. I even believe you if you say you don’t have any neuroses to project onto your characters. However, if you are neurotic and you’re not really using your neuroses on your characters at the moment, can I borrow them? I’ve got this new story in mind …
It’s true though, I can create the most realistic, multi-layered guilt complexes in my characters. And angst, oh how I can write angst! And every time one of my characters wrings her hands and walks the floor in the middle of a sleepless night. I nail it. And every time my character feels guilty for not being open and honest and carefree and at home in her own skin, boy, do I nail it. My characters are my therapy, poor things, and in some strange way they make me feel better about myself. They make me feel a little less neurotic. They exist in my head, and yet they often give me insights into my own unpristine psyche that I would otherwise miss. How do they do that? Is it only because of my projection? I feel sort of guilty for being so mean to them sometimes. But then I worry that maybe I’m just being too soft and sentimental about the whole thing.