Three Writer “Illnesses” (and how to treat them)

not-so-healthy-1412912-mThis post is about those pesky bugs we authors come down with: that writer-itis that strikes us down when we feel we’re doing okay, or we think we’re recovering from our last bout of writer’s block. It can feel as though we’re the only ones who come down with these afflictions: which is why I’m writing this.

None of us are alone here!

1. Delusionitis

So,what is delusionitis? In short, it’s a set up and fall.

Tell me I’m not the only one who’s been here: I’m writing. It’s just “clicking,” you know? I’m shutting down the inner editor, ignoring my Eeyore (which is what I call the bugger). I’m even feeling good about my writing. Heck, I’m feeling great.

This stuff is gold, y’all. GOLD.

Then, a few days later, or maybe during a read-through or editing pass, I go back and read those golden passages. And they are so stinking bad I kind of start to feel nauseated.

Anyway, it’s all good. Because at the root of this affliction is the fact that I have been writing.

It’s good not to get hung up on how bad a first draft is when you’re writing it. And it’s good later on to be able to see some ways that drafts needs improvement. In fact, for some writers “delusionitis” is kind of critical to getting a first draft down. It can a way of staying confident enough not to give up. Because of that, I try not get too frustrated when the blinders eventually come off.

2. Secondguessitis

Secondguessitis is the affliction of “second guessing,” of doubting and revisiting your decisions until you basically just stop writing.

Maybe you have a character that could conceivably do “this” or “that,” and you’re not sure which choice she should make. You could tweak the circumstances a bit to make either scenario more credible. You’re not sure, though, where you want the story to go.

I have definitely been there. I second guess myself constantly…. Heck, I even second guess whether I should be “wasting my time” working on a continuation to my Herezoth trilogy instead of writing something different. And I already have more than a first draft written of that very continuation.

One thing you can do treat secondguessitis: take some time to outline. It doesn’t have to be complex or involved. Just consider where each choice could (or would likely) take your story and your characters. That sometimes helps me make a definitive choice.

Do I still doubt myself? All the time. But at least while I’m continuing to doubt myself I’ve made a decision and written out more scenes. Those scenes get written because I’ve made a choice.

And the planning that goes into the choice I leave behind? Well, that’s great fodder for inspiration for other stories.

3. Split Vision

Split vision can take multiple forms.

  • You see the beginning, end, and middle of various subplots all at once, and you get confused because you want to write them all. RIGHT NOW.
  • You see various ideas for different stories, related or unrelated, all at once in your head, and you get frustrated because you want to develop them all. RIGHT NOW.

All of this can be frustrating. And it can require heightened methods of organization and the development of patience. But honestly, when this is your biggest writing problem, you should be singing your happy song. Things are good.

The biggest problem with split vision is two-fold: lack of focus, and the tendency to forget some of your ideas because they are so manifold and coming so fast. Hence organization.

The good thing is: organization is a great skill, and patience is truly a virtue. You’ll learn both, and both will serve you well in the greater scheme of things.

So, are you survivor of any of these “illnesses”? How did you treat them? Do you find other things besides these weigh you down when you write?

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28 responses to “Three Writer “Illnesses” (and how to treat them)

  1. I suffer from all three, especially split vision. I have 61 projects at the moment, and my real problem is trying to choose which one to work on…because I want to work on them all RIGHT NOW.

    To help myself not forget what’s what, I have a Master List of Plots Word doc. When I come up with an idea, I type up the title and a few cues to help me remember (later on) what it is. Then, hopefully, I can feel free to go back to working on what I *should* be working on…whatever that is.

    Still, I have lots of troubling prioritizing what I should do next and just sticking with one (or three) projects at a time.

    • ooh, GREAT idea! Master lists are always crazy helpful organizational tools. I used one once to organize my academic bibliography as a grad student. All the articles and books I had access to/had cited in papers I put in a master list so that i could always find the citation info, in format, really easily. It was great!

  2. This is perfect. Just what I needed. You nailed it.

  3. I used to succumb to “Split Vision” on a VERY regular basis. I was always writing a few pages on one project, then a few pages on another, then a few pages on a third, and so on. Total lack of focus. I would finish each work in turn, but always with thoughts of other stories to tell. It’s a constant theme in my head, like the scene from the Matrix with hundreds of television screens, although they all play something different.

    But I found the fix! And it was very much an organizational fix. It sounds crazy simple, and it may not work for everyone. I carry a notebook and pen- ALWAYS. That’s it. It took me a bit to get used to it, but every time I have an idea for anything I scribble it down and get back to work on the current project. I’ll even jot down notes at the grocery store, I take that thing everywhere.

    Although in retrospect, I have a shelf with stacks of little notebooks, none of which are labeled…

    Great post, Victoria! 🙂

    • Hehehe…. I can envision that shelf. I have used little notebooks before too!!! Thanks so much for sharing your approach to keeping all those crazy ideas in line and not losing them. It’s a great idea. I should honestly carry a notebook around more often than I do!

  4. Great post! I’d add a fourth ‘illness’: Comparitis. This week I found a few similarities between my WIP and a novel that’s been out a few years – about a month before I plan to start querying. They’re not deal breakers, by any means, but already I feel myself slipping into a writing coma about it. Comparing my writing to other people’s is a sure fire way of killing the buzz. In this case, I looked at all the things that were different and focussed on how I could make these stronger.



    • ooh YES. That comparitis is a KILLER. I catch it all the time!!! I think you are taking a great approach…. remember similar doesn’t mean identical. I think you are doing great focusing on what makes your work uniquely YOU and strengthening that. Emphasizing that.

  5. Loved this post, Victoria, and have to say I ‘ve suffered from all of them. Don’t think there’s any real cure, it’s a bit like the common cold, keeps coming round and just have to live through it. And Joseph, your shelf full of notebooks made me smile. I know most people advocate using one but aren’t they like a bathroom cabinet full of quack cold remedies?

  6. Reblogged this on Being an Author and commented:
    Happens to all of us.

  7. You’re a genius for sharing this. We get cloistered in our set ways of thinking, and we become enclosed within our own minds. Everything you have written I have gone through, and some I am going through even today. Thank you for your words of wisdom. They are encouragement to my writing soul. Bless you.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! You are right…. we do tend to get cloistered in our pattern of doing things, even when that pattern isn’t very productive or doesn’t spur us to our greatest heights of creativity. I’ve been there too!

  8. Major sufferer of Split Vision. I treat it by taking time at night or the weekend to work on other ideas. After finishing a major project, I take 1-3 weeks to relax with future ideas. It’s a lot about time management and training myself to step away from a project to clear my head. In fact, many times I come back stronger and more refreshed to the main project.

    • Sounds like you have developed a great strategy!!! I totally agree that stepping away can be super productive and well worth it in the long run when burn out starts or ideas just won’t come.

      • It’s definitely a useful strategy and it evolved as needed, so I think it’s going to change as time goes on. Best part about the breaks is that I can read a book at a nice click during this time. I need to find a way to get more reading in while I’m working on a book.

  9. I believe I have suffered all three illnesses with any writing, but my solutions are the same and twofold: 1) I walk away from it for a while…leave it alone, put it in an drawer and forget about it and then go back and read a week or so later 2) I have another set of eyes and a different mind that doesn’t know what is in my head take a look at it.

    When I come back to it I am really ready to wrestle the cure out of it.

    • I have found as well that both of those things help. Glad you said this and that I can say from experience, you’re dead on. In case any newbies are reading this and haven’t figured out yet that stepping away and other eyes are super helpful 🙂 Thanks, SK!!!

  10. How bad is it, Doc? 🙂

  11. I’m one of those authors who channels Delusionitis into getting any novel draft done (or essays, for that matter…), though I also catch the others with alarming frequency. The suggested ideas of outlining and carrying notebooks is a lifesaver, though I also find it useful to prioritize my projects. I might want to write EVERYTHING, but I narrow it down to 2-3 projects that are important to work on now, and bounce between those.

    • sounds great!!! multiple drafts at once really works as a process for a lot of authors I’ve heard. Me, not so much. But other people say that they always have two or three in the works and that keeps them sane because they obsess over one in particular.

  12. Secondguessitis sounds like something I suffer a lot of.

  13. Am I a victim–or am I blessed?
    What ever it is, count me in.
    I especially savour ‘Delusionitis’ because I claim it means I’ve grown as a writer.
    And organizing does help. Now where did I put that slipped out of my pen earlier today….

    Thank you, Victoria. I’m continuing to enjoy your blog.

  14. Pingback: On Authorial “Frauditis” | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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