On Writing

My poor, neglected writing desk at the moment

I’m am a creative writer who is terrible about being a creative writer.   

It’s almost as though I’m pathologically incapable of finishing anything. I have two novels which are languishing. One is currently at 50,000 words (I’m aiming for about 80,000-85,000) and the other is somewhere around 25,000-30,000 words. I have one completed screenplay, which is on it’s second draft and really ought to be edited again. There’s also about five or six other screenplays in various stages of completion (60 pages here, 30 pages there). And I have notebooks and Post-It notes stuffed chocker block full of ideas.

 My problem isn’t coming up with ideas. Oh no, I have tons. I’m a fairly lucid daydreamer and I often sketch the ideas for entire scenes in my head during the day. I can literally see the scenes play out – with all the dialogue, all the scene direction. All that.  My problem is the actual application – the actual writing.

I have a lovely alphabet soup of mental illnesses. Along with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I also suffer from Schizoid Personality Disorder.  And no, I haven’t diagnosed myself after researching online – these diagnosis are from an actual, true blue psychiatrist. When I received the SPD diagnosis I was relieved, even though it’s basically saying that my brain is seriously broken. But it explained so much of my life and experiences.  Life, as I’ve lived it, finally made sense. 

So, Schizoid Personality Disorder is a Cluster A personality disorder –  we’re the “oddballs” of the personality disorder spectrum. We don’t cause life strife like your Borderlines or your Narcissists. And we don’t have deep seated fears, like your Avoidants or Dependents. My disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, emotional coldness, tendency towards a solitary life and secretiveness. Maladaptive dreaming can be an issue as well – we spend lots of time locked in our daydreams (this is probably why I have so many ideas for creative work and can see them so very clearly in my head). Lots of Schizoids have difficulty holding down jobs due to these factors (and others). I have no choice about working – I spent the first ten years of my life in poverty and it freaking sucks. I refuse to go back to being poor. And to make sure I don’t get back there, I went to college and I work.

College was fairly simple to deal with – I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m best at being a student. Hours in a library researching and writing papers? Yes, please! That is my own little slice of heaven. I was a Cinema Studies major, which means that I studied the history, theory and criticism of film. There is very nearly nothing I take more pleasure in than ripping a movie, particularly one I’m fond of, to its thinnest, smallest pieces and trying to stick it back together again. I love discussing films with other people — I truly because that film watching – much like reading – are very, very individual pursuits. What we enjoy and how we see things will differ so much depending on our personalities, experiences, pursuits, all that. How you and I interpret, say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will be different. There’s the official view (that of the director/writer), mine and yours. And it’s entirely possible that none of us will see it the same way. That is delicious and essentially, my crack. Right now, I am seriously bursting to discuss The Beguiled with someone. College – or at least my major and the academic side – fit very well for me.

Networking, on the other hand, was something I didn’t/couldn’t do, which I now realize was a terrible, terrible mistake, but oh well – there’s not entirely much I can do about that now.

But I find the working world difficult. I always have.  Not the actual work mind you, but the social aspect of it. The constant interpersonal contact is completely and utterly draining in ways I can’t explain as there are simply not enough words in the English language that would allow me to paint a vivid a picture as I would need. If introverts are, in general, drained by interpersonal contact and need time to re-charge, well, for me, it feels like my actual LIFE FORCE is being stolen from me when engaging socially. I need more than just a few hours to feel normal again. I can be alone for actual, literal weeks and be just fine. Not having family or friends around doesn’t make me sad. I’ve never felt homesickness – I have no actual emotional understanding of that concept. I spent months in the Czech Republic doing a study abroad and I called home 3 times – one to let my mother know I arrived, once to let her know I was taking a trip to Turkey/across Balkans during fall break (and beg for the funds for a plan ticket to Turkey) and once to let her know when my flight back to the States would arrive in New York. 

When working, I don’t even have to be talking to clients/colleagues to feel drained to death. It’s actually just knowing they’re around. Just being in the same room steals away my energy. 

It takes so much of my energy and effort to hide my innate coldness that when I get home, I simply have nothing left to give. I collapse and often, I sleep. I read as well as that doesn’t take as much effort. It is entirely possible, I think, that this is because most of the work I have done has been in industries and jobs I genuinely have no real affection for and I assume that this worsens the symptoms of my mental illnesses as I spend an awful lot of time pretending that I care about what I do. I’ve spent a few months working in a job somewhat related to an industry I love and I’ve been less drained and fogged when I’ve gotten home. But this has ended and I am going back into an industry and job I do not particularly care much for.

Writing – my screenplays or novels – take energy and effort and creativity and when I’m home, I just don’t have it. When I’m home, I’m trying to recharge myself to prepare for the next day. There were a few months in 2015 when I was not working – and I got a metric ton of writing done. Most of that 50,000 words written for one novel was written during that period. You might say, well, hey, you’re writing now and you’ve written reviews, which is true. However, this sort of writing is less difficult for me. For me, screenwriting and novels requires my brain to be firing on most cylinders.

There’s also another part of this which, I think, is rooted in a fear of failure. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from or why it’s there, but it’s there. And it’s real. I took a screenwriting class and my professor, after seeing what I came up with, suggested that once I wrote a few more scripts, that I ought to try to get an agent. Having a few scripts would show the my range. It’s been years since I received that advice and I’ve finished a grand total of one script. I’m afraid to fail. If I finish nothing, I can never actually be rejected, can I? Same thing with writing a novel. If I don’t finish one and I don’t query, no one can ever tell me I’m not good enough.

Except me. I can tell myself I’m not good enough. And I do it. Often.

This is a terrible combination of mental illnesses and doubt and it leads me to essentially not chase any dreams and to ensure that I’m dooming myself to live a life that I don’t actually want and could maybe, just maybe, pull myself out of.

I’m working on getting better. I’m trying. I’ve recently wrote a 1,000 words for my novel. Might not seem like a lot, but trust me when I say that’s more than I’ve written in months.  This week, I’ve written about 10 pages of a screenplay and have also written out 5 pages of a treatment for a screenplay. And I’ve done a bit of editing of other screenplays that I’ve started and have yet to finish. None of this is a lot of work, for most, but for me, this is Herculean.

But I know that I have to keep on working on my creative endeavors. I have to. For my happiness and my sanity, I have to.