Continuing on the theme from yesterday’s post, GAD Guide: How to be a Neurotic Writer in 15 Steps, I got to thinking about the underlying precepts of the neurotic writer’s life. If you’re going to be a neurotic writer, you want to be as uptight as you can be, right? So here are three principles to cultivate in order to be your unstable best.
(plus, it makes for another listicle and listicles are all the rage with the kids these days.)
There are plenty of things to be afraid of: cancer, thermonuclear war, evil flying monkeys, etc. The best fears for the neurotic writer are the evil flying monkeys.
(wait, what? why?)
Because they’re not real. Evil flying monkeys, i.e. demons, are all in one’s head. No one can see them, not even you, which is perfect. This means they can be blown WAY out of proportion. Everyone knows that nothing makes you a complete neurotic mess more than the invisible demons tormenting you.
Plus, demons are easily transplanted from everyday life. There’s never a shortage of hurtful, overly critical people who give unsolicited “advice.” Let their voice gnaw you at every turn, reminding you that you’re a failure. For me it was a college professor who’s first words after I read a poem in a creative writing workshop were, “We don’t discourage enough people from writing.”
The last thing my grandmother told me, standing in her door as she hugged me, was, “Come and see me again before I die.”
Let that sink in. I’ll wait.
. . .
Yeah, I never saw her again, except in my haunted memories where she’s still standing there, an expectant look of longing in her glassy eyes; her frail, arthritic hand barely able to wave. She’s so very small in that doorway, yet so very hopeful that one day I’ll come back.
That’s the kind of guilt you want to cultivate. The more unreasonable the better. Couldn’t sit down to write today because you had to handle the funeral arrangements for your only child? You should be ashamed. You’re a terrible person. You’re bad and should feel bad because. . .
. . . you’re a worthless piece of crap.
See how nicely the one rolled over into the other. Thankfully, neuroses do that. Once they get going one subsumes or transforms into the next.
A small green Jedi master said it best with, “Fear leads to guilt. . . guilt leads to loathing. . . loathing leads to substance abuse—and a book deal.”
All this said, there is a catch. See, as glamorous the neurotic writer’s life is, it comes at a very high price. This price is not often mentioned up front, kind of like the fine print in deals with the devil. I’m gonna let you in on the secret: you have to live with yourself. The more neurotic you are, the more enamored you will be in the public eye, but the more likely you’ll want to punch yourself in the throat. Those of us already in the game know that being a truly neurotic writer is like being thrown into a sack of angry hornets. It’s all fun and games until you’re bloated and dying from the incessant stings.
The honey badger don’t care, but I do. So I thought you should know.
(really it’s a CYA thing. you’ve been warned.)