Friday, September 4, 2009

Bad in the Head


In my writing group last night, we talked about the point many writers reach or are in danger of reaching: getting Bad in the Head.

The recipe for being Bad in the Head is simple enough:

  • 1 cup working too long and too hard on your project without taking a break
  • 1/2 cup critique that points out the deeper meaning of your story, which you bypassed entirely when you wrote it
  • 1/4 cup of critique that was really thinly-veiled dislike for your work
  • 1 tablespoon of reading other brilliant writers and realizing you'll never approach their level, ever, even if you sit in a room with 1000 other monkeys and bang on a typewriter for a million years
  • 1/2 teaspoon of refusal to stop
  • 1/2 teaspoon of telling yourself you are a piss poor writer
  • Heavy dollop of exhaustion

Mix together and bake at 350 for 45 mins. What you will have is a perfectly formed Bad in the Head.

Getting out of having a Bad in the Head takes a little effort. You can:
  • Work on another project
  • Watch television instead of writing
  • Play video games instead of writing (I recommend something really aggro like Grand Theft Auto, particularly Vice City in which you can just run around and steal people's cars and shoot people up---no strategy required and a most wonderful stress relief; mind the polis though, they get on to you quickly. Luckily there's a shop in Vice City that will give your stolen car a new paint job, no questions asked. You have to find it quickly though.)
I am currently in danger of approaching being Bad in the Head. I can hear the control tower shouting: "Warning! Warning! Attention! Danger, Sierra Godfrey! Bad in the Head alert!" This is because I am finished with my novel but still have some work to do--things to fix, pieces to shape up--and it really annoys me. So I work and work and work and do not stop. This week I got had Bad in the Head, thinking "Oh God I was deluding myself, I'm CRAP" and "this is RIDICULOUS. I am wasting everyone's time and especially my own" and "What was I thinking? Who was I trying to kid?" But I didn't stop. I didn't play Grand Theft Auto (although I might now because it sounds fun again). I didn't watch television. I chose to work through it, which you'll notice is not on my list of recommended remedies above. The result is that I'm less Bad in the Head but some of it still lingers; I don't really trust myself fully. It's still entirely possible that I'm kidding everyone here.

So don't do that-- try one of my other patented solutions (and I wouldn't say no if you wanted to send me a money order for $9.95 for them). Bad in the Head can vary in its severity, and I think everyone gets it from time to time. Maybe the really brilliant people don't get it--or the non-brilliant, but 5-million-first-printing-best-selling-pap writers do. I don't know. (Not knowing is also a sign of Bad in the Head.)

What I do know is that writing is my crack pipe; I cannot stop and so I risk frequent flareups of Bad in the Head . I'm still going to work, though. Screw everything, I'm going for broke.

What do you do to avoid getting Bad in the Head?

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