Days 35-40. Writing is jeopardizing my mental health.

I’ve come to realize that becoming a writer is sort of like becoming a voluntary schizophrenic.

Is that just me?

I’ve always been drawn to first person narratives. When I began writing my story, I knew from the beginning that it would be first person. I like the freedom that it gives, and it really allows me to get to know my characters. I would say it allows me to get inside my characters heads, but really it just allows them to get into mine.

Which leads me to my problem…

I feel very lucky that I can hear my characters voice so vividly in my head. When I first started to write, all of my characters felt undefined. I couldn’t pick out their voice from the overwhelming noise of my story. It was very difficult to focus on who they are and how they’re feeling. Over time, I became more familiar with my characters. I started to see them grow into full-bodied visions, instead of the imaginary wisps they had been previously.

The problem, I’ve found, is getting them out of my head when I’m not writing.

I’ve already talked about H (my main character) visiting me in my dreams. What I have failed to mention (for fear of being burned at the stake) is that she also talks in my head all day. Her internal monologue is constantly running through my mind.

For example, I called in to work on Monday. Now before you judge, I was under the weather and I had sick days left. As I was trying to fall back asleep, a voice kept nagging at me.

H: You know, I wouldn’t  have called in. I’m off doing difficult and important tasks in your book. I am becoming a very strong female character, and you are in your pajamas at noon on a Monday.

Me: What the hell, H? You live in a religiously corrupt dystopia so a boring accounting job isn’t available for you! You’re doing difficult and important tasks because I am making you! You are only a strong female character because I am providing the words that fuel you! Furthermore, these are not pajamas! They are lounge clothes!

This is the moment that the very walls of my mental health came tumbling down. I was arguing with a fictional character in my head.

I can hear all of you lighting your matches and picking up your pitchforks.

Now, she feels the need to butt into almost all of my daily decisions.  Instead of a WWJD bracelet, I just need to wear a WWHD bracelet. What would H do?

In the beginning of her birth as a character, I think this would’ve been a creative character strengthening exercise. Asking what your characters would do in your own daily tasks would be a great way to get to know your character. It’s easy to predict how your characters would react in the context of your own story, but you can gain a deeper understanding of them when you remove them from that.

Since H is visiting me in my dreams and talking in my head all day, I’m past that point. I need that to turn off now. I want my own inner monologue! I miss my own whiney voice!

If I would’ve known that writing a strong female character would only cause her to turn around and point out how I am not a strong female, I would’ve chosen a male character.

You hear that, H? It’s not too late…

Well, maybe it is for me.

I’d like to think this isn’t some downward spiral into Crazyville, but rather a sign that I am fully immersed in my story. That’s a believable theory, right?

Days 35-40 are down. I don’t know if I can keep my sanity for 144 more days.

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26 thoughts on “Days 35-40. Writing is jeopardizing my mental health.

      • I’m not sure. I don’t want to get to “shrink-y” but she’s probably just the embodiment of my own frustrations. My inner voice has taken on the persona of H, and expresses my frustrations through her because it knows that H is important to me. Or maybe I’ve just gone further down the rabbit hole.

        I think she’s mostly cranky about where things are going. Some scenes that I had perfectly described in my notes have fallen flat in my story. Plus, it’s not a good time for her in my story. Shit is about to get real 😉

  1. I do not write in first person, but I do have conversations with my characters sometimes as well, or listen to them having conversations with each other to better understand my characters. I do not think it is crazy. It is possibly a good element to good writing. I heard once that Robert Jordan’s wife would know what character he was writing about in a story because of how he acted when he got home because he was so immersed into his characters. Another great post!

  2. You are SO not the only one… when I’m writing, it’s all I can think about. People comment when they find me staring off into space, running over a scene with a character over and over in my head, every detail. It’s especially bad when I’m *driving*!

    • I’m happy to hear I am not the only one!

      I sincerely hope your characters do not cause you to crash! I’m fairly certain that would justify killing them off though.

      • I had to kill off one of my favorite characters in my novel. Sometimes, they just have to die — the story dictates it. On the plus side, I got creative and brought her back from the dead. 🙂

  3. There is actually a large correlation between writing and poor mental health, and they have been many psychological studies conducted on the matter to see if there is a cause/effect relationship. I believe the majority of successful writers struggle with mental health issues, lets face it, creativity and mental health disorders practically come hand in hand..

  4. I loved what you said about your characters developing from imaginary wisps into full-bodied visions. I think one of the things I’ve found strangest about this writing business, is that different characters seem to develop in different ways: I’ve really struggled to bring some of them to life; others have just popped off the page as though they’d been there all the time, just waiting for me to hit the keyboard. And even more odd is that, for me, the character who’s leapt to life most readily isn’t the protagonist. She doesn’t really have a lot to do with the story, even, just hangs around taking the mick out of everyone else. I’m really glad she hasn’t started on me yet – maybe it’s just a matter of time!

  5. I think we do imagine our characters to life. It’s not until they take on a life of their own that they become believable in our stories. It sounds like you’re going to turn out to be an amazing author. 🙂

  6. Pingback: There’s One In Every Crowd | A Place That Does Not Exist

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