Today we offer you a continuation in our six-part series called “The
Six As of Addiction.” Today’s letter is from a reader who wonders if
writing is beginning to endanger his sense of reality...
Dear Dr. Jim,
I’m contacting you in hopes you might put some of my family’s recent
worries to rest; my wife and kids seem to think that my writing career
has begun to “take control” of me (if you can believe such an absurd
notion). I’ve been at work on my latest novel for several months now
and am enjoying the process immensely. Granted, I do work long hours in
my study, sometimes emerging from my writing space only to eat a meal
or two a day. And if I find myself particularly engrossed in what I am
writing, some nights I will not sleep but work straight through till
morning. I do not find this unusual . . . the creative process is
consuming, yes, but I am quite sane. The fact is, research is critical
during this kind of work (my new novel is a historical piece, a
swashbuckler about pirates on the North Carolina coast). It is
essential that I get into character while writing, so that I can “feel”
the action, characters, and overall heart of the story. On those nights
when I work straight through (despite the pitiful pleadings of my
family members on the other side of the door), I will, of course, dress
myself in full pirate costume. When my neck and shoulders begin to
cramp from the tedious hours at the keyboard, I will often stretch my
limbs by swinging my sword above my head while shouting “AHOY, ME
MATEYS! SWAB THAT DECK! AAARRRGGGGHHH!” or some such, as I find it gets
my creative juices really flowing. Yes, by day I am a mild-mannered,
part-time author and full-time CPA, but by night, I become CAPTAIN
Well, that’s about it. Please give me some hints as to how I can
convince my family to leave me alone while I work. This novel is going
to be my legacy, my treasure chest, so to speak. Arrgghh…if these
blasted landlubbers can’t accept me for who I be, then I’ll consider it
MUTINY! I’ll have ’em walk the plank, I will….
Sir, I need you to calm down. I want you to sit in a comfortable chair,
breathe deeply and rhythmically, and perhaps sing a sailing song to the
parrot that is no doubt clinging to your shoulder.
suffering from ARDD: Arrested Reality Development Disorder. Symptoms
include becoming lost in the imaginary world of your latest book,
finding yourself talking more to the characters in your story than to
your own family members, and in more severe cases, dressing like
pirates, clowns, priests, farmers, Amish, kings (or queens), etc. If,
for instance, you consider taking out the trash an act of
spine-tingling espionage, or if (in your case) you’ve just called your
wife “First Mate” and asked her to raise the topsails . . . well, you
need professional intervention and treatment.
I would agree to take you on as
a client myself, if that were possible. However, for the next few days
I will be working undercover as a secret agent, as part of an attempt
to foil a suspected assassination plot against the Mayor of Munchkin
Land. I wish you all the best . . . get help, LaFoote. You need it.
I’m Dr. Jim . . . and I’m
(attentively) listening . . .
When not writing this column,
Jim can be found compulsively overworking at
www.ProdigalSong.com and www.jameserobinson.com.