The Writing Addiction

I have an addiction for which there is no cure. There’s no Twelve Step Program to lead me home, no anonymous meetings I can attend to rid me of this curse. This addiction won’t kill me, but it can make me extremely hard to live with.

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerWhat am I addicted to? The same thing we all are, writing. Regardless of genre, style, or approach, we’ve all broken out in a cold sweat when the urge to write hits us. Ever been standing in line at the grocery store, and the perfect opening sentence hits you like a sack of potatoes? How about driving to work, or taking the kids to school, and a sweet bit of dialogue between the hero and the villain pops into your mind?

Like Tantalus, we wait to commit this to paper, digging desperately in the glove compartment for a piece of paper and a pen. If none comes immediately to hand, we try to memorize it, repeating it over and over in our minds until we get home. Then there had better not be anyone in the way, or they get mown down in an attempt to purge!

Although symptoms may vary, some things hold constant. An abrupt end to a conversation, followed by a mad flurry for a pen and paper, or a suicidal dash to the computer, are early warning signs.

Glazed eyes, inappropriate answers to simple questions, distraction, peevishness, herald stage two.

Stage three may have a sudden onset. No one has been able to pinpoint the exact time that writing addiction becomes serious. However, the symptoms remain constant. The addict breaks into a sweat, the body tenses preparatory to a leap toward the computer. The heart races, nerves jangle, feet tap, tempers flare! Being caught in a writer’s frenzy can get ugly very quickly! Extreme caution is advised.

The delusional among us will way, “It’s not that serious, I can give it up any time.” I want to yell at them, “Wake up and smell the ink!” Denial of an addiction does not make it go away.

Are you at risk? Ask yourself the following:

1. Do you often skip meals or lose sleep because you are writing?

2. Do you let the phone ring, entrusting your calls to the voice mail?

3. Do you lose track of time easily?

4. Do you say to your wife, husband, child, significant other, “I’m coming in a minute! I just need to finish this thought!”

5. Is your desk covered with stacks of random papers and suffocating in sticky notes, all of which have writing ideas, corrections or additions scribbled on them?

If you answered yes to only one of these questions: There is still hope for you. You do not suffer from a serious addiction (Unless it was number 5, in which case you’re out of luck!)

If you answered yes to two: You are in the early stages of an addiction. Intervention might still be effective at this point.

If you answered yes to three: You are too deeply enured to escape! You are an addict! Intervention is no longer effective.

If you answered yes to four: There is no hope, you are hopelessly addicted. However, your need for a fix is not quite urgent, though it is compelling.

If you answered yes to five: Hang it up, it’s all over. You are a full blown addict. Only regular fixes will help you lead a semi-normal life. Writing is no longer just a cathartic high, it is life itself!

I sit here, knowing myself to be in the fifth, irrefutable stage, and sigh. I ask myself, would I have it any other way?

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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