Are Fiction Writers Schizophrenics?

Writing takes discipline, focus, energy, and empathy for our characters. That’s why I write in the morning before my mind sidetracks to real problems and outside distractions. A rested mind opens the doorway to my fictional world. We must create doorways in and out of our fictional minds.

But here’s the catch, the doorways must revolve.

Yesterday, I wrote a scene containing a climactic, heated argument between two characters. I pounded the keyboard with vigor! But today I need to patch things up between them—as humbling and draining for me as if it’s happening in real life. Not so fun. If the argument was real, a family member could have listened, supported, or at least consoled me. Or I could have had a good bawl—something to release those pent-up emotions.

Who understands what it’s like to simultaneously juggle the real and alternate worlds? And I’m not even talking to-do lists, just mindset. We enter an imaginary world and leave it carrying baggage—real emotions. This is why writers need interaction with other writers.

We are the only ones who GET IT.

In my last novel, my preacher hero got the hives twice because I used allergies to create a bond with his heroine. While I enjoyed writing these humorous scenes, I got the hives for an entire week, even longer than it took to write the scenes. It was awful. Every time I quit taking Benadryl, I broke out in welts. Besides scratching, I started to fret about mind-power and what might happen next. Hubby thought it was hilarious.

Poor guy. He doesn’t think it’s so funny when he has to bear the brunt of my emotional writing baggage. Depending upon a day’s creation, I can do the garbanzo dance or crawl into a hole. Sometimes I’m so drained, I even feel antisocial on Bunco night. Hubby dreads my deadlines as much as I do.

Worst is when I stand in the doorway of both worlds. When things are flowing, it’s hard to quit. Right when I’m in the middle of an adrenalin high, real life beckons. I have to zap out of it, leave things hanging. When that happens, I become a zombie. I go through the motions of cooking dinner and even dinner conversation, but my soul is missing.  I haven’t found the doorway back to reality or else I’m just not ready to move through it. One arm’s lagging, grasping at other world insanities. Am I the only one who experiences this?

Do we feel guilty or secretive about spending the day in an imaginary place, especially after being the villain who plots disaster for our unsuspecting characters, or after writing a love scene? How do we stuff emotional baggage and greet family with a smile?

What doors transport us from one world to the other?


Are we on the brink of schizophrenia?

Or am I just imagining this?

13 Replies to “Are Fiction Writers Schizophrenics?”

  1. So well expressed, Dianne! And I love the image at the top of your post! =) It can be painful to write about the deepest emotions of our characters, and if I am to write them well, I have to imagine myself in whatever situation I’ve put them in, sometimes physically feeling what they are feeling: fear, sadness, confusion. But as you say, there’s the upside too … when they soar past their hurts, with help from above!

    1. Hi Angela,
      Thanks for focusing on the upside. You’re right. There’s a ton of positives about the writing life. Like working in comfy clothes and having the opportunity to express ourselves. Even if it’s not exactly face to face with someone.

  2. Thanks for the affirmation and Pingback, G. B. Loved your comment – “Writers who don’t feel that way are just typists.” Good food for thought.

  3. You’ve described this perfectly! I think most of my non-writing friends think I’m a bit nuts. When I explain the process to them, they look at me doubtfully, as if I’m delusional. I shrug. From fellowship with other writers, I know this is just how it is if we’re going to create fiction. We have to put our hearts and minds in that emotional/situational place with our characters. My husband describes those times when I can’t disconnect just as you did: My eyes are open, my body is present, but my soul is elsewhere. He says he misses me when I’m gone.

    1. Hi Melinda…kindred spirit! And if we don’t take advantage of the inspiration when it hits, it may not be as powerful the next day. But like any job, if we work too long, we’ll burn out.

      1. So true! I had to learn to manage inspiration better when I first started writing fiction. I blogged about it last week—we had to have a family meeting to figure out how to keep the writer from imploding! 🙂 I have several small notebooks and the Notes app on my iPhone that I hurl those ideas into when life pulls me out at an inopportune time. Still, I have to carry those characters around in my head until I can get them adequately on paper. I don’t want them to vanish!

  4. Melinda I just read that post. I love how your family called a meeting to help you sort through it. Sounds like you have a great and supportive family. Thanks for helping me put things in perspective.

    1. I just looked at your website and Facebook page. With a genre that’s outside our usual activities and interactions, burying ourselves in the imaginary world seems to be essential. We love getting lost in that world, don’t we!

  5. Really enjoyed your post today, just great and I can understand that pull in two worlds. Kind Regards Mandy Currie (

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