So many of my readers are also writers!
…And I know @SomeRandomGuy is over 600,000 words into the draft of his epic sci-fi fantasy, and others have mentioned works in progress or in planning.
So I thought now might be a good time for a diagnosis. Are you or someone you know struggling with writer-itis? Use this handy checklist to find out:
Symptoms: Uttering random words at inappropriate times; unexplained giggling, crying, and/or scowling.
Differential Diagnosis: Writer, Tourette Syndrome, or psychosis.
Tests: Observe the subject’s behaviour after the outburst.
If the subject scurries off to write immediately after the outburst, they’re a writer.
If the subject acts as though nothing untoward has happened, they might have Tourette’s… or they’re a writer in the throes of plotting.
If the subject carries on an animated conversation with invisible companions, it might be psychosis… or they’re a writer planning dialogue.
Symptoms: Unhealthy attachment to word processing programs
Differential Diagnosis: Writer or computer geek
Tests: Observe the content of the document.
If you’re still reading and completely riveted after ten pages, they’re a writer.
If your eyes glaze over after the first line and your brain explodes after the first page, they might be a computer geek… or a writer.
Symptoms: Separation anxiety when leaving a computer; obsession with backups; paralyzing fear of data loss
Diagnosis: Writer, computer geek, or conspiracy theorist
Tests: Confiscate the subject’s data and destroy it before the subject’s eyes.
If the subject bursts into uncontrollable weeping and/or guzzles alcohol until they throw up and/or pass out, they’re a writer. Or they were; before you destroyed the only copy of their life’s work and with it, their will to live.
If the subject curses you in Klingon and produces three redundant backups, they’re a computer geek… or a sci-fi writer.
If the subject sidles away with a furtive expression and disappears only to resurface several weeks later with a new name, identical data, and a blog decrying the censorship of the establishment and the oppression of free thinkers, they’re a conspiracy theorist… or a writer.
Symptoms: Forgetfulness; changes in behaviour; social withdrawal
Differential Diagnosis: Writer, dementia, or drug addiction
Tests: Restrict the subject to a controlled environment for 24 hours, then provide a laptop loaded with a word-processing program. Retest at two-month intervals.
Diagnosis: If the subject breaks into a cold sweat and suffers tremors, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and/or seizures, it might be a drug addiction… or they’re a writer.
If the symptoms resolve instantly when a laptop is provided, they’re a writer.
There’s really no way to differentiate writers from dementia patients in a single test. Writers will forget to eat, sleep, and bathe; will walk away from stoves leaving the elements on high; will drop the keys in the sugar bowl; will wander away from home and get lost even in familiar neighbourhoods; and may even fail to recognize close friends and family. Retesting is the only way to know for sure: At some point, writers will likely resume more or less normal behaviour (at least until they start their next manuscript).
Symptoms: Immobility and non-responsiveness when addressed
Differential Diagnosis: Writer, deafness, or death
Tests: Obtain a lightweight object at least six inches longer than the subject’s reach. Gently prod the subject.
If the subject startles, yells, and/or flails, they’re either a writer in deep concentration or deaf.
If the subject now responds when addressed (and particularly if they respond with creative expletives), they’re a writer.
If the subject still doesn’t respond when addressed, they might be deaf. Or a deaf writer. Or a writer in extra-deep concentration.
If the subject falls over and lies motionless, call the coroner… but the subject might still be a writer in extra-extra deep concentration. Make sure the medical examiner checks for a pulse before starting the autopsy.
If you were reading this hoping you’d find a cure, well… sorry about that. There isn’t one; there are only short remissions between manuscripts. But the disease itself is so much fun, who’d want a cure anyway?
Do you have writer-itis?
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P.S. I’m poking fun at myself and my fellow writers, but I don’t mean to trivialize the social and emotional consequences of dementia, Tourette Syndrome, mental illness, hearing impairment, or addiction. To gain awareness and understanding of these conditions: