I have become an addict. I had no idea it could happen. I had heard the stories. Stories of people obsessed. Stories of spouses who never came home or when they were home their minds were somewhere else. It snuck up on me. I knew I liked it. Knew it even had the potential to be something I loved. But I thought it was like a new relationship when everything is crisp and clear. I thought I was simply enamored.
The fall into addiction was slow for me. At first I wrote just when I could squeeze it in. And I had trouble with my plots, my characters so I would stop for months on end. How could anything this frustrating become addicting? I was determined to finish a book. And I did. And that was when I began the decline. Because when I finished that book I was elated.
I joined Romance Writers of America and my local chapter, Colorado Romance Writers. And I began to have writing friends. When you make friends who have your same addiction you take one more step down the road to perdition.
Then I decided to improve my writing. I began to take classes. Classes are another love of mine. I have always loved school, loved to learn. I have all kinds of trivia knocking around in my head that pops into conversation at inappropriate moments. So now writing became, not just about the work of putting words on the paper, but about learning about the words. Now I had to spend my time writing, socializing about writing and learning about writing. My free time shrank.
Like learning my caffeine addiction dovetails nicely with the writing addiction. I can meet in a coffee-house to talk about writing or write there or get on the wi-fi and chat about writing. Coffee now fuels my muse. And my muse is my demon on my shoulder. I now had a secondary addiction.
I became jealous of any time spent away from the computer unless it was on a writing related activity. Trips to the grocery store dwindled. The house became a land-mine. Dust bunnies thrived. My family began clamoring for the attention that used to be lavished on them. But I told them. I’m writing, and its important. They left me alone to wallow in my text.
The day I realized I had an addiction (I won’t call it a problem, because like all addicts I don’t see it that way) I was in the car with my husband. We were driving down the road and I had been blathering on about something that had happened at my CRW meeting the day before. I paused and realized I could talk about this stuff all day. Not only that, but when my husband talked about his stuff, I was still thinking about mine. I realized I had a new friend in my life, obsession.
I wake up in the morning and I read how-to-books. I watch lectures on DVD’s while eating lunch. And in between I’m writing, writing, writing. This morning I kept forgetting to drink my coffee because I was writing. I now neglect my caffeine addiction for my writing addiction. Now we know it is serious.
Luckily for me and millions of other writing addicts, this is a productive addiction. Like exercise or overworking there can be problems, but if one can manage it one can become a functioning writer. A functioning writer can still manage to get to the grocery store when there is not a crumb left. A functioning writer will let go of the mouse to snuggle a crying child. A functioning writer gets up from the computer on a regular basis. Even when they don’t want to. And the benefits, like the endorphins that come with that runners high, are huge. Writing addicts finish stories. Writing addicts make contacts in their business. Writing addicts will be successful published authors.
Management is key. I am learning to pepper my conversation with phrases that indicate I am thinking about something other than writing. I never bring it up in social situations unless someone asks me first “How is your book coming?”. Then look out! The addict will be off. I’m trying to see exercise as something that contributes to my writing and not a time sucker. I actually do some of my best plotting walking by myself, so that helps. The biggest issue is the family. But I’m lucky. My children are writers too, so when I say I need ten more minutes, they give them to me. And my spouse? Not a writer. But he loves to see me happy and thriving, especially at something that will someday bring in some cash. As long as I’m still sitting next to him, he’ll pay the price of putting up with my incessant chatter about all things bookish.
I had heard all the stories. Stories of success. Stories of do what you love and you will thrive. I just had no idea that lurking in the background of the fairy tales of success was the dark secret. When you do what you love, when what you love makes you glow and sing, when you become obsessed: that is when your work becomes your addiction. And addiction is the secret to success.