Today I would like to discuss a little known psychotic disorder which I believe afflicts only writers. Even as I write these words I realize I am generalizing: it is possible that this disorder afflicts only me, that I am a diagnosis alone unto myself, but there is sufficient evidence extant that leads me to believe there may be others.

As I research this phenomenon, I’m tentatively calling it Writer’s Psychosis. It is closely related to the more commonly known Submission Psychosis, and is characterized by paranoia, isolation, and delusional beliefs that everybody who is engaged in reading your manuscript now hates you because of the massive failure of your writing. As a case study, I present my most recent bout with the disorder.

Several days ago I finished yet another draft in the unending revision cycle of Swimming North.  With confidence and only a little trepidation (okay, maybe a lot) I sent the manuscript out to a handful of long suffering readers. All of these people have been through at least one draft already, and there are two who have been with me on this project from the beginning. I think these readers should get some special reward in writer heaven, by the way. Or Karmic blessings. Or something.  Every time I produce yet another draft I expect a collective groan and a general mutiny, although they all protest to be more than happy to read, and sometimes even pretend to be enthusiastic and excited about it.

I digress. As I said,  I finished the draft and sent it to my readers. And I was fine with that. Really. I went cheerfully about my business, relaxed a little, started messing around with my new project – a cozy mystery involving a geriatric vampire trapped in a nursing home – and just enjoyed not having Swimming North hanging over my head for a little while.

Until yesterday afternoon, when it suddenly occurred to me that my readers were conspicuously absent. Those who are usually on Twitter a lot were either not tweeting at all, or having conversations with everybody else but me.  My IM buddy was nowhere visible on IM. No emails from my email friend.

By yesterday evening I was in the grip of the disorder.  I had what seemed to be an epiphany: all of my readers hated the book and were avoiding me because they didn’t want to tell me so. The tiny voice of reason that had managed to avoid being completely strangled by my psychosis argued that this was most likely not the case, that it was Saturday, and a gorgeous spring day outside, that all of my readers are very busy people who actually have lives and responsibilities, possibly even pleasures, outside of reading my never ending revisions.

I was unable to listen to reason. As this was not my first encounter with this form of insanity, however, I took steps toward a cure.  I took the drastic measure of confessing my condition to one of my readers and asking for help. He kindly held my hand, gave me a virtual pat on the head, and reassured me that he was having a life at the moment which didn’t happen to revolve around my manuscript. He told me I was a good writer and that everything would be okay.

This was sufficient to restore me to a semblance of sanity. This morning, another reader surfaced and reassured me she had been out having fun with her family yesterday and her absence from my life had nothing to do with my book. And then, best of all, I received an email from a reader this morning saying that she loved the book and suggesting that celebrations are in order.

So, at the moment, I believe myself to be in remission and capable of functioning in the real world. But in the interest of research and finding a cure, I’d like to collect data on the experiences of other writers who have suffered from this curious malady. Unless, of course, nobody else has ever been afflicted, in which case I am seriously deranged and will check into a treatment facility forthwith.

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