On Thanksgiving, like many other writers, I vowed to take the day off. I write every day, hours a day, until my fingers throb as if smashed by a hammer and my eyes lose focus; so surely I deserved a day off to enjoy my grand turkey feast, right? A day for my eyes and fingers to rest. A day for my mind to recharge. A day to gain about 5 pounds, watch football, and say typical things to other football-watching guys like, “Wow, great catch!” and “Shame about those Smallpox-infested blankets the Pilgrims gave to those poor, unsuspecting American Indians, huh?” A day to escape the stress of life and work and love and hate. I was determined not to write on Thanksgiving. Dead-set against it. I didn’t even want to turn on my laptop, or even pick up a pen unless it was to write a list of the various delicious pies I wanted to eat. I planned on drinking a few choice cocktails, which would further prevent me from writing, since I’m a lightweight and a couple of drinks essentially turn my brain into a maze like something out of The Shining, where great thoughts occasionally get lost and die. For most of the day, my plan worked perfectly. No writing, no thoughts of writing, no deadline stress. Just pure pumpkin pie and Tryptophan bliss.
Then something unexpected happened. I arrived home just after 10 p.m. from my second Thanksgiving feast of the day and I…wrote. A nugget of an idea had popped into my head, and I didn’t want to forget it. I tried to fight the urge to write, but I grew shaky and nervous, unsettled, panicked. Knowing I’d had a few drinks, I knew the idea would be lost forever if I didn’t act quickly. So, on Thanksgiving, despite my best intentions, I wrote for more than hour, probably badly, but still, I wrote. I just couldn’t stop myself. When I’d finished, I was relaxed and content, my addiction sated. The next day, I wondered why I couldn’t go even a single day without writing. The answer was obvious.
I am addicted to writing. It’s true. I’m a total story junkie. I simply can’t stop writing. Stories are like food and oxygen to me. So I wonder: Are all serious writers addicts? Are we slaves to the written word? Are we just our imagination’s bitch? I used to think writers owned what they wrote, but maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the words own us.
If we are all addicts, can we overdose?
Many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo this month. You’re working on a 50,000-word story. It’s a month of essentially non-stop writing. After working on something so mentally strenuous, are you dizzy, shaking, sweating, babbling incoherently, craving another fix, or are you simply exhausted and in desperate need of detox and a lollipop?
Looking at writing as an addiction, it explains a lot. It’s the reason I’m always coming up with ideas, always desperately searching for more time to write, always reading and being inspired, always trying to take my writing to next level. It’s why I’m grumpy when I haven’t written in a day. Yes, I’m an addict. A writing addict. If I weren’t, I suppose I’d be happy just sleeping, eating, working a regular job, and hanging out with friends.
The addiction has me in its clutches, and I hope I never break free. I guess eventually madness will set in. Many great and not-so-great writers have lost their minds. Some say Phillip K. Dick died because his mind was overloaded with so many stories that his brain simply couldn’t contain the volume. That’s probably a silly notion, but one that fascinates me as a writer. How many stories can the brain hold before it bursts? Can we ever type fast enough to put all of our stories on paper?
I’m guessing, as addictions go, writing is not a bad one to have. I’ll take my laptop over a crack pipe any day, my pen over a dirty needle.
Do you ever feel like writing is addiction? Have you ever tried to take a day off and been unable to stop? When you’re out having a nice dinner with good company, do you ever wish you were elsewhere, typing away? I suspect that’s the case for many of you. Are you either writing or thinking about writing all the time? If the answer is “yes,” you’re an addict.