Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


For many of you the fact that I'm obsessive about things seems obvious in light of the fact that you know I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but you might not have noticed my obsessions as they've played out... or maybe you have.

Obsessions with OCD are very strange.  It builds.  I eat and breathe something, spending hour upon hour on it; my life revolves around it.  It's all I think about.  I itch when I'm not doing it. It's the magnet, and I'm the metal, and it's pulling me toward it--all day--all night.  I need it like an addiction.  I have to finish it.  I have to complete it.  My life... my sanity depends on me finishing it. Then I finish, and I'm done. Sometimes I walk away, and I'm fine. Sometimes I never pick it up again. Ever.

Remember my Angry Birds phase?

I played Angry Birds until my battery ran out, and then I'd plug it in and hunch over it near the wall even though it wouldn't run quite right on a low battery.  I stayed up until 4 a.m. one night playing Angry Birds.  It was all I could think of.  It consumed me.  I had to make it to the next level and the next, and I had to finish them.  It was a rush inside me that built and built.  Nothing mattered as much as completing levels.  I didn't care about how many stars.  As long as I finished, I was good.  I played everywhere.  I missed sleep.  I forgot to eat.  Nothing mattered as much as Angry Birds.  Then, I finished all the levels... and it's been two or three weeks since I've played.  It doesn't matter.  I can't even understand why it was that vital to me.

This is how my life has played out.  A new obsession.  A new manic energy to finish at all costs.  Stress makes it worse.  Illness makes it worse.  I will push myself to crazy ridiculous lengths to complete or finish whatever my latest obsession is.  Then... I walk away, and it never has that same draw on me again.

Some of my obsessions have been more expensive than others.  I'm sure my husband wasn't as concerned about my Angry Birds phase.  Some of my obsessions have been hobbies like beading.  When I start something like that I need a lot of options.  I need choices--lots of choices laid out in front of me.  I manically collect everything I might ever need.  Then, it fades and I'm left with a load of expensive beads that are merely interesting and not my heart and soul anymore.

These last two weeks I've been obsessed with watching all of the Psych episodes.  Every night I've watched five or six episodes in a row.  It's hard to stop watching and go to bed.  I don't want to.  Last night, I finished.  It's so strange.  It's like coming up out of the water and realizing there is an entire world around you that continues. It's as if I'm coming out of a fog.

When I'm on OCD medication, sometimes I can walk away from an obsession. When I'm not, I've learned that I won't be able to stop until I finish it... so I work on finishing it. Inside my head, I'm thinking, "Wendy, this is nuts... you have things to do... you can't spend all your time doing this. Stop!"  I can't stop.  It's one of the absolutes: I can't stop.

One of the recent constants in my life is obsessive writing.  When I start a WIP, the momentum is all-consuming.  I'll sit down and write for hours and hours.  Sometimes I'll write for 12 hours every day for a week.  I can't sleep.  I don't care about food.  I'm certainly not going to clean.  The only thing that matters is getting the story down on paper.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing.  Writing is one of the few times when I like the obsession.  I like the manic energy.  It creates a product, an object--something to show for my obsession.  I wish I had the same manic energy for revision.

On the other hand, in the middle of a WIP, sometimes I average about 2-3 hours of sleep a night.  I can't concentrate on my kids' needs as much.  It's hard to focus.  Sometimes, I dream about my characters, and I wake up confused as to which is reality.  (Luckily, I can figure it out... but it's disconcerting for even a moment to think I've gone that deep into my fantasy world.)

I've had other writers envy how prolific I am, but it scares me sometimes.  At one point, after too many obsessive writing periods overlapping, I just wanted more than anything for my mind to be blank. Control is very important to me... and I'd lost control of my mind.  It scared me.  Luckily, these revision projects have broken it up so the obsessive writing hasn't taken over as much as it did that first year.

Obsession is a scary thing.  Unless you've been there... you can't imagine how intense it is.  You can't walk away without feeling like it would kill you.

So, tonight, I'm officially done with that obsession, and it's left me wondering: what next? What is the next thing that will devour my soul?

Maybe I'll be able to finish this revision on Secrets of Skin and Stone before the next wave sweeps me out to sea.  I hope so anyway.


  1. This is a pretty accurate description of my life...

  2. I can identify with almost all that you said here. It's exciting and exhilarating, but draining and sometimes scary, because I feel like I don't have any brakes, or a way to stop when I want to. Inertia of my obsession will keep my going even if I want to stop. I don't have OCD, though. I was told it was just part of Asperger's for me.

  3. I actually obsess over TV shows a bit like that. And I totally understand the feeling of coming up for air. I hope the revisions go well!

  4. Katie, I get the feeling you and I are very similar actually.

    Quiet, OCD and Autism Spectrum disorders share a lot of qualities. The only reason my daughter was diagnosed with OCD instead of them assuming it was just a variation on an ASD behavior was because of my severity. My son has Aspergers and has fewer obsessions... thank goodness.

    Miriam, if TV shows didn't mess up my inner voice it would be less frustrating when this grips me. Also, with OCD--you can stop enjoying the activity but you can't stop the obsession. I actually didn't want to finish watching all of the Psych episodes, but I couldn't stop. *hugs* to you, btw. I feel like we're revision buddies. We always seem to be doing heavy revisions at the same time.