Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crazy like a...Writer

by Shannon Baker

There’s a chance I might not be crazy. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

Most of the time I can compartmentalize the worst of the fruitcake behavior and hopefully people don’t know how nuts I am.  I’ve learned to anticipate and warn those around me when an outbreak of lunacy is likely. It’s sort of like a good-hearted werewolf who  locks himself up on a full moon.

For instance, when I send a manuscript out for review I can turn off the anxiety for a time. But I know when that manuscript is returned there will be fallout. It’s predicable and The Man With Infinite Tolerance knows the drill.

There is a deep inhalation in preparation. As I read the comments I burn with embarrassment that I could be that stupid. How could I have sent this off when I know better than to make those kinds of mistakes? Then despair sinks in.  This manuscript cannot be salvaged. Repair is impossible. My deadline looms and I have to create a completely different story.  I’m doomed.

This stage lasts exactly two days.

On the third day I start to understand how to change the plot to make it better. I get a clear idea where to cut, where to add and how to make that device work. The literary worm turns and I get excited because when I make these changes, this book is going to be brilliant!

For the next two to three weeks I am possessed, obsessed and whatever other ‘ssed writers get when they go so deeply into their story the only time they surface is to 1) eat and 2) go to that pesky day job that supports this bat-shit habit.  The MWIT knows the only conversation I’m capable of is raving about the new insight into my character. He knows my checkbook will not get balanced and I’ll survive on pickles and saltines before going to the grocery store.  I have plenty of underwear to last this manic phase so laundry is up to him.

And then it’s done. You’d think I’d feel relief. Elation! Pride of accomplishment.

Maybe I would… if I weren’t crackers.

Instead, I have Manuscript Withdrawl. After having made all those changes I knew would make the story sing, I’m convinced I’ve failed. It’s drivel and my editor will reject it and I’ll end up in the gutter, my roots will grow out gray, and I’ll have chronic halitosis.
This was the deranged state I hit on Saturday, as I knew I would. I finished my major plot revisions and I texted MWIT, “I hate this. We need a new lamp. Going shopping.”  Later, when I showed him the lamp, he seemed surprised I’d finished the manuscript. He thought I was still working and was referencing our running joke about the movie, “The Jerk,” where Steve Martin leaves his wife and all he needs is the Thermos… and the lamp… and the chair. Silly MWIT thought if I’d finished the manuscript I’d be happy, not escaping the house with all those sharp objects.

Two days later I feel more stable and, well, hopeful. I’ve got some great ideas for the next scrub and polish and have confidence I’ll hit my deadline.   

I’ve heard it said that if you think you’re crazy, you’re not.  In my case, I don’t think there’s much doubt.

 Okay, time to ‘fess up. What kind of crazy are you?


Vicki Doudera said...

Just as crazy as you, my dear, and lucky to have a MWIT too! And a very understanding dog. That helps loads.

Shannon Baker said...

I can't believe you go nuts, Vicki. You're so put-together at all times! But at least it puts me in good company.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Oh my, your routines and mine sound distressingly similar. I am currently in the "this-manuscript-is beyond-salvage" mode. Like you, I am also lucky to have a MWIT!