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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two Easy-to-Catch Writer's Diseases

Many thanks to the talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi for having the perfect comic for this post.

<--- See Eliza? Poor Eliza.

And, yet, so many writers wind up just like Eliza. Paralyzed with fear and unable to move on. It's a disease. It is communal. And, in honor of the holiday flu season, I've decided to post a quick public service message about these nasty viruses and how to avoid them this winter.


Symptoms: depression, fear of writing, avoidance of manuscript, reluctance to share work with others, excuse making

Sounds: Victims of this disease may make odd gasping sounds that sound like: "I'm no good." "I can't write." "No one will read this." "I'm a failure." "Why did I think I could write?" "I should burn this manuscript." or sobbing. Do not be alarmed. This is caused by bile and sour stomach and can easily be remedied.

Transmission Vector: Isuckitis is often caught via rejection letter, harsh crits, writing groups, or success stories of other authors. Some people become carriers for the disease. We call carriers Mean People.

Cure: *NOTE* The patient should be heavily dosed with appropriate sedative (writing cookies, chocolate, mint ice cream, or a nice dinner out) before the Writing Spine is reset.

Those assisting the patient should make every effort to encourage the victim by accentuating the positive aspects of their writing. If this is a mild case where the patient is trying an at-home remedy science recommends a list of things the patient does well. For extreme cases writing therapy with a group led by someone who knows how to use a comma is recommended.

Recovery: Minor cases of Isuckitis usually bounce back to full writing skills within a few days. A minor slump usually leads to a burst of sustained activity and full recovery.

Severe cases of Isuckitis that have prevented the patient from writing for a prolonged period of time will be slower to recover. In these cases it is suggested that the patient start with short stories to regain old writing habits and to consider writing marathons such as NaNoWriMo where the goal is volume and endurance rather than perfection.

Warning: Victims of Isuckitis are prone to relapse under extreme stress. Any writer who has recovered from severe Isuckitis should engage a cheerleader and optimistic Alpha-Reader to support them during the editing and querying process. Such cheerleaders can be readily found in most writing groups and on Twitter under #amwritingparty

*NOTE* Although Igottaedititis is similar to a Polishingfrenzy or Fearofsuccess it is not the same disease. Igottaedititis is only found in the early stages of manuscript creation. If you see these symptoms in a patient who is past their fifth draft it is not Igottaedititis.

Symptoms: continuous outlining, continuous revision of outline, continually referring to outline once the writing has started, refusal to move past a certain chapter, continuous rewriting of a single chapter, abuse of the delete key

Sounds: Victim may make low growling sounds and viciously hit the keyboard while writing. In the advanced stages of Igottaedititis the victim may mutter things like: "It's not working." "I've got to fix this scene." "I can't move on until this is right." "That first page doesn't fit."

Transmission Vector: It is hypothesized that there is a carrying vector involved for Igottaedititis but recent studies suggest that susceptibility to the disease has a genetic cause. Perfectionist are prone to suffer from this disease.

Cure: In most cases the appropriate cure for Igottaedititis is a timely reminder that the patient needs to Keep Writing. Patients must be reminded that the important part of a rouch draft is to finish the rough draft. Once the victim is able to put the chapter into proper perspective they are usually able to finish the draft with very little assitance.

Recovery: Mild cases of the disease stem start when the patient becomes stuck in the writing-editing-rewriting cycle and is unable to bring the rewrites up to an acceptable level of writing.

In severe cases where the patient refuses to acknolwedge the problem the recommended treatment is Diversion and Redirection. First, divert the patient to another project or (in extreme cases) non-writing tasks. When the patient has broken out of the writing-editing-rewriting cycle you may reintroduce the manuscript with the offending chapter removed for the patients safety. Remember to keep the stolen chapter safe for surgical reintroduction later in the editing process.

Warning: Victims of Igottaedititis may relapse during bouts of Isuckitis. In these cases, Igottaedititis is a secondary infection and the primary disease should be treated first.


  1. I LOVE THIS! I bookmarked it - so I can come back to read it every time I have one of those moments. Great post, thanks :-)

  2. HaHaHaHa!

    Thanks! I needed this today!

  3. *chuckles*

    Confession: I'm editing my NANO novel even though it's still November and technically I should be trying to FINISH the novel before going back to edit. <- I know all this, but.... nanocardboardplotcharactersrobotdialoguesuckitis!

    I can't work in a cluttered and messy room.

  4. This is awesome! Loved it... though I would have thrown "vino" in as a possible recovery as well.. though they may encourage drinking. Something authors already have bad rep for.

  5. You are now officially my idol!!

    Fantastic post - I currently have a mild case of isuckitis - recovery is underway.

  6. Chronic isuckititis is a very challenging condition to over come - thank heaps for the clear treatment plan!

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