November 4, 2010
OCD or talent?
This is my table-desk. (I have another desk with my Mac computer on it. I do my actual writing on the Mac but spend an awful lot of time beforehand, hashing out the story components in my great Clairefontaine basic notebooks. That's one of them with a great leather cover from renaissance-art.com -- and never mind the Levenger Circas; this is an old photo. I've tossed them. More later about the tools I use for work.) This is where the initial magic happens, where the story turns into actual scenes.
Back to OCD. I have always had sentences running through my mind. It's what my brain does: it makes sentences. A couple of shrinks told me I have OCD but I always ignored this. I didn't do the typical OCD things: worrying about whether I'd locked the door, or shut the gas. It wasn't that way at all. I was just a bit particular, I thought.
It took me a ridiculously long time to notice that what was happening in my head wasn't normal. For one thing, in recent years (before I began writing fiction) I found myself spending hours and hours and hours making up nonsensical names. Not one of those names was memorable enough to write down. They all just flitted through my mind, endlessly, tiringly, uselessly.
The other thing my brain did was write emails that I'd never send. Uproariously funny emails (some of which I did send, but not many) they were, and they made me laugh. This began to compete with the name-making nonsense in my head. I thought, "This is OCD. I'm insane."
And then I read an article about Gore Vidal. It mentioned that someone asked him what he did for a living, and he said, "I make sentences." I thought, "Hey, that's what I do. Maybe I'm not nuts." And that was the day that I first considered directing this enormous, useless, mental energy in a sensible direction. Instead of thinking about nothing and letting it run riot in my mind, I began to write.
And the voices quieted down! I stopped making names in my head unless I needed to create one for a character. Name-making has lost its veneer of insanity. I just do it, and out pops a name. No big deal.
Now, on days when I write fiction, my brain is quiet at night -- except for new ideas that sometimes pop out, and which I write down for the next day's work. If I have OCD, it's now working for me.
And just think: it only took me 60 years to figure this out.