25 Reasons That Writers Are Bug-Fuck Nuts

It seems like a good time for a spiritual successor to my earlier “Beware of Writer” posts — this time, jacked into the popular “25 Things” format here that all you cats and kittens seem to like. Plus, it’s sometimes good to speak to the non-writers out there, let ’em know why we get that spooky glint in our eyes once in a while. You wanna know why we’re a little wacky? I gotcher 25 reasons right here.

1. We Destroy Our Imaginary Friends

Authors invent people. Out of thin air. They reach into the moist and dewy folds of the invisible thought vagina and from that squishy space birth people who have never existed, and who will never exist. We give ourselves — and by proxy, the audience — reasons to care about these people. They become our imaginary friends. Then we take our imaginary friends and fuck them over ten ways till Tuesday. “This is Dave. We all like Dave. Good hair. Nice teeth. We can all relate to Dave. Uh-oh! Dave’s wife just left him. Stole the kids. And now he’s being hunted by a serial killer from the moon! HA HA HA HA SUCK A DICK DAVE.”

2. We Specialize In Creative Ways To Die

We’re basically murderers who just don’t have the balls to actually go out and kill some motherfuckers. It’s not just stories about aliens chomping on people’s guts or thugs stabbing other thugs — books and films and comic books are showcases for every form of misery and doom one could imagine. Once in a while you’ll be walking along and suddenly a thought will strike you: “I wonder if I could work it into a story where some dude gets his guts vacuumed out his boothole by an out-of-control Roomba. I bet I could. Time to murder some non-existent humans. To the writermobile!”

3. Behold The Bad News Boner

It’s not just murder. It’s all kinds of bad news. Bus crash! Small town swallowed by avalanche! Exploding nuns! Deadly form of herpes escapes lab on the back of a carnivorous shark-llama hybrid! Oh noes! Bad news! Yay! I want to rub it all over my body like a cream or unguent! I want to wear its stink and huff the stench of cataclysm and catstrophe to get me jacked up for my next story! Exclamation points! Can’t stop!

4. “I Was Once Born With A Tail!”

We are trained to be gifted liars. Anybody who writes fiction — or works for Fox News — is tasked with the job of convincing others that Things That Are Absolutely Not True are, in fact, Totally Fucking True. Our entire job is predicated on being good at spinning a complicated web of deception. Truth? Bo-ring. Lies? High-five! Lies make Story Jesus giggle as if you’re tickling his tummy. I imagine all writers have those moments where they’re sitting around their office, pantsless, an empty whiskey bottle spinning idly at their feet — they rub their eyes and mutter, “I don’t know what’s real and what’s fake anymore.” Then the writer hops on his rocket unicorn and goes to buy a cat-burger from the fish-faced Atlantean fellow down on Bumbershoot Street. See? The lies just fall out of me. Like chewing gum from a dead man’s mouth.

5. Quiet Loners

Whenever they find some whackaloon with a collection of severed heads in his freezer, they always trot out the neighbors and you get that classic line: “He was always so quiet.” And the assumption becomes, oh, that seemingly nice-and-quiet chap next door needed his quiet time because he was too busy with his hobby of decapitating dudes. On the other hand: hey, maybe him being quiet and alone all the time made him crazy. Maybe you spend too long cooped up with yourself the carpet starts moving and the wallpaper shifts and the room starts to whisper, You know what would be awesome? A sweet-ass collection of severed heads. Get on that. This is probably a good time to remind you that writers happen to spend a lot of time alone and cooped up with themselves. Just, uhh, putting that out there. What, this old thing? Just a hacksaw.

6. The Grotto Of Insanity

Our office spaces soon begin to reflect our quiet and lonely — and inevitably crazy — lifestyle. Teetering towers of books that threaten to crush us. Pens laying everywhere (and if you’re me, half of them are chewed on, the toxic ink and plastics long settled into my body). Over there, a plate of what may have once been a burrito but now looks like a brain made of fungus. Next to it, a small handgun. Next to that, a dead pigeon. Underneath the desk, a noisy pile of Red Bull cans, liquor bottles, and ammunition casings. Behind us, a cabinet full of freeze-dried severed heads. Our offices inevitably turn into wombs, that is, if wombs were responsible for birthing the raw stuff of crazy into the world.

7. The Nexus Of Madness Is Atop Our Wibbly-Wobbly Necks

If you think our offices are the domicile of the insane, you should see the inside of our heads. It’s the asylum from 12 Monkeys all up in these motherfuckers. And we live here all the goddamn time. No escape!

8. Creativity Is Seen As A Commodity Of The Lazy And Insane

You tell most people what you do and you get this look — it’s a look that perfectly contains a tempest of information, a tangle of thoughts (and none of them good). You get a mixture of, Oh, he’s one of those, or, Look, another hipster-slacker-socialist-asshole stealing all our precious unemployment, or, He doesn’t look like he’s starving so he must have a trust fund keeping him alive, or, Ugh, that’s not a real job. Swamp logger, that’s a real job. Writer’s just something you say when you like to smoke drugs all day. It’s really quite disheartening. You get those looks often enough it starts to crack your egg a little bit, dontcha know?

9. The Love-Me Hate-Me Two-Step

Here, then, is the critical dichotomy of our process: we have to love an idea so much we’re willing to spend the great deal of time shoveling it into the world, and then we have to switch gears and learn to hate the thing we just created in order to improve it. We puff up our ego, then lance it with a hot pin. It’s like giving birth to a child who you love with all your heart until you throw him out into the icy woods with a note pinned to his chest reading: this is how you learn to survive, you little turd. Writers are the tragedy and comedy masks whirling about, trading places again and again. And it’s all a bit barmy, innit?

10. Caffeine Poisoning

Writers drink so much caffeine that eventually the synapses start to break down like wires chewed by starving squirrels. And then those starving squirrels make a ratty nest of old leaves and smelly yarn inside our heads. We end up as gutted automatons piloted by a tribe of twitchy squirrels. Metaphorically.

11. Alcohol Poisoning

Coffee, then liquor, then coffee, then liquor. Okay, yes, I know, not every writer is a pickled booze-sponge, but some drink enough for all, I suspect. All that booze affects the liver and just as the liver is kind of the bouncer for the human body, detoxing all that bad voodoo, Plato felt that another function of the liver was to keep in check a human’s darkest emotions. Meaning, the liver’s purpose was to bottle up all the crazy. And what do writers do? OBLITERATE THE LIVER WITH DRINK. Be free, little crazies! Be free!

12. “I Got A Bad Case Of The Penmonkeys, Man”

We’re addicts for our wordsmithy. Over time, it just happens. One day you’ve been writing so long that when a day comes you don’t put words to paper it feels like that space between your heart and your guts is filled with a cluster of bitey eels that want out, and the only way to give them egress is to start writing again. We’re word-junkies, man. Ink-slingers. Fiction fiends. The only cure is another taste of that sweet story.

13. Control Freaks With Nothing To Control

Inside our stories, we’re gods among mortals — our hands are on all the buttons and switches. Outside our stories, we control a big bag of Dick Butkus. We don’t control publisher advances, book placement, trends, reviews, or that weird little deranged robot that computes the Amazon recommendation algorithms.

14. Crazy Money!

Yeah, by “crazy money” I don’t mean “money in such quantity it’s totally awesome,” but rather, “money that arrives in wildly inconsistent sums and on a madman’s schedule.” You hit this point where, okay, you have to learn to survive from January to March on this royalty check of $7.53, and then in March you’re supposed to get like, ten grand or something, but then that ten grand doesn’t show up until June, and when you get it you forget you need to buy groceries and instead buy like, a Wave Runner instead. Yeah. See? Nutty.

15. Books Books I Love Books Books Books Mmm Books

The one thing that e-readers have robbed from us is the ability to throw all the books we own into a room and roll around on them, naked. I mean, okay, sure, I can do that with an e-reader, but eventually someone’s going to pick it up and be like, “Is this a testicle-print on my Kindle?” What I’m saying is, some people hoard clothing, cats, fast food containers, ninja weapons, exotic primates — but writers hoard books. And eventually all those books — each a storehouse of utter unreality — bleeds into our brains via creative osmosis. Either that or they fall on us, crushing our weak little writer bodies beneath.

16. We Are Distracted For A Reason

It’s not new to suggest that writers are easily distracted: we’ve all gotten lost in an endless labyrinth of cat videos (and at the center of that labyrinth is a cat dressed like a minotaur, and he’s all like I CAN HAZ COW HED OH NOES THESEUS and — dang, LOLcats jokes just don’t cut it anymore, do they?). But here’s why we’re easily distracted: because our brains know it’s bad for us to stare at a screen full of tiny words all day. Our brain is telling us to look at something — anything — other than those tiny little ant-like words. It is unnatural to stare at words in this way. It nibbles holes in our gray matter.

17. The Internet Is Full Of Ragehate, And We Dive In, Headfirst

Once upon a time, authors would get reviews that were insightful, incisive critiques — “The author’s masterful use of language is sadly handicapped by a plot whose events fail to properly resolve.” Now we have to put up with internet vitriol like you’d find on the likes of a YouTube video where a guy gets hit in the nuts with a tricycle: “THIS BOOK IS FUKKIN STUPID IT BLOWS GIRAFFES THE AWTHOR IS A TARDCART.” And then they probably call you a racial or sexual epithet. It’s like asking for insightful criticism during a Call of Duty match on Xbox Live. It does little good for one’s sanity.

18. The English Language Makes As Much Sense As Snivel Bliff Fleekum Hork

Okay, this one is a little biased toward those writing in the English tongue, but seriously, trying to know all the rules in and around the composition of the English language will give you a goddamn nosebleed. Looking at all the rules — and then memorizing all the bizarre-o exceptions — makes you want to go back to the days of communicating with clicks and burps. Related: Brian Regan knows the real “I-before-E” rule.

19. At Some Point We Tried Really Hard To Understand The Publishing Industry

Predicting trends, imagining advances, contemplating the agency model, trying to figure out why anybody would publish any book by Billy Ray Cyrus ever — all this does is plunge your mind into the roiling black soup of unmitigated chaos. You can tell the moment any author’s sanity snapped, because it goes like this: “My book’s been out on submission for seven years, and now they’re publishing a book of scat marks written by that greasy orangutan, Snooki?” Listen hard enough, you hear a *plink* — that’s the sound of the little pubic hair holding the last vestiges of that author’s sanity together.

20. That Might Be Scurvy

No, that’s not the latest spin-off band by They Might Be Giants — it’s because we don’t have enough money for food and health insurance and because we didn’t eat a couple oranges now we’re losing our teeth and fingernails and turning into some raving froth-mouthed version of the Brundlefly.

21. Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me? Me!

It is in our makeup to be desperate for attention. We write our books, our films, our articles, and we’re not writing them so that we can just read them back to ourselves and have a jolly good laugh. We want you to read them, too. And you. And you! And you over there, hiding behind the shrubs. The more attention we get, the more successful we become — or, at least, feel. The ironic part is, many aren’t comfortable with that attention and yet seek it like junkies. Which, you guessed it, makes us a wee smidgen bit crazy.

22. Amazon Rankings

Click. Clickity-click. Refresh refresh. “Did my ranking go up? Or down? Or up? Or down? It stayed the same. What does that mean? Did I sell enough to stay afloat? Are the rankings broken? How often do they update? Is my book doing better than that other book? Is that good? Or bad? My finger is getting a blister. MY ENTIRE SELF-WORTH IS PINNED TO THIS GODDAMN NUMBER. *sob*” Click. Click. Refresh refresh.

23. The Idea Plague

Ask a writer: “Where do you get your ideas from?” And the writer will reply: “How do you make yours stop?” Then he’ll bat at his hair as if it’s on fire. I can’t walk ten feet without thinking of a new novel or script idea. It’s an idea that will almost certainly never yield fruit — which means I’m essentially committing an act of literary Onanism. So much idea-seed spilled on the floor. Infertile and inert. And smells like Clorox.

24. We Hang Out With Other Writers

Crazy people hanging out with other crazy people just creates a crazy people feedback loop where the crazy recirculates again and again like a bad stink in an old car. Crazy begets crazy begets crazy.

25. It’s Cool-Cool To Be Cray-Cray

Most writers aren’t actually crazy — but we certainly feel that way sometimes and furthermore, a helluva lot of our authorial forebears were definitely a bit, ahhh, unstable (Hemingway! Hunter S. Thompson! Emily Dickinson! Sylvia Plath!). As such, we’re cast into a realm where it’s okay, even expected, that our creative pursuits mark us on the charts between “a little bit eccentric” and “crazier than a shithouse chimp.”

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144 responses to “25 Reasons That Writers Are Bug-Fuck Nuts”

  1. Back in high school I read an actual news story about a guy who had his innards sucked out when he was seated on the toilet of a mini sub when they were emptying the tank. Turned out he lost several feel of intestine and there were several kinds of food he couldn’t digest for the rest of his life.

  2. My own ‘grotto of insanity’ is my Fortress of Solitude, my bear-trapped haven of chaos from where all ideas stem. Piles of books, unread and well-thumbed; towers of paperwork sorted using the Holmesian method of determining age by dust; Batman and Cthulhu glowering down at me from a shelf; a framed diploma of creative writing which means nothing; a framed copy of my first rejection, which means everything. My study is my den of iniquity, my hive of scum and villiany and you enter at your peril!

  3. For Gregory Lynn: In the “might be true” category–a 1990’s Army NCO in charge of a unit’s Nuke/Bio/Chem equipment thought it would impress his friends to use the tester stick (nuclear isotope in tip) for the Geiger counter to stir his coffee each day for YEARS.
    He died of a particularly nasty case of mouth/throat/esophagus/stomach cancer.

  4. I’d agree with this, especially the crazy bit. Some authors lives seem as mental as their books. Apparently Jonny Gibbings drove a stolen Golf buggy into a cravan while stealing a cheese cake near me. Can’t get more random. Nutters – the lot of ya!

  5. And to think I started writing to make the crazy go away, or at least to give it a little time on the jungle gym to tire it out before bedtime. Is it a good sign or a bad sign that I get this whole post?

  6. Staring into space. Smiling to yourself. Laughing at nothing in particular. Uncontrolled outbursts, followed by scrambling for a pen, or furiously tapping at your phone’s notepad app. Conspiracy theorist… or writer?!

  7. The Nevada desert has groups of Survivalists. Neither overtly conservative nor liberal, they seem to live by their own code. I worked with one for a few years, and enjoyed our conversations even if I wasn’t in step with most of his beliefs. Exchange “writing” with “fighting” and he could have written this post. He knew the reasons for, and outcome of, all the major wars and even the minor ones; heck, his knowledge predated Tsung Tsu.

    This turmoil of the mind had so affected a buddy that the man locked himself inside a structure.

    The similarity leapt out at me. I have to incorporate this into my WIP.

    Stay sane.

  8. This is akin to the validation a patient feels when finally getting a legitimate diagnosis after suffering from some strange, exotic malady for about a millennium…makes me want to say, “Hey, I’m a writer. ‘Nuff said?”

    Thank you, Dr. Chuck.

  9. You certainly hit some chords with this fat scribe (NB-I’m pointing at myself now). Amazon ratings are a dangerous game to play. The dog from Frasier, an insect cookbook and a guy who wrote a (pictorial) history of delousing have recently kicked my ass in the Amazon game.

    This all mean I’m going to further prove your list right by boozing my rump off while thinking of a creative way to off myself.

    Thank you for helping me procrastinate doing my blog.

    Eat more roaches, DG

  10. I especially like #19.
    But don’t you think that being a writer involves looking at all sides of existence, and it’s seeing all the possibilities and all the reasons for everything that make us a little nuts?
    You that is.
    I am as sane as any cat.

  11. Chuck, you hit another one out of the park with this one. Almost. While I agree with all 25 points I feel that, for me at least, you missed one. The Obsession with finding the Perfect Word which drives me nuts on occasion. Okay, most of the time.
    So, I had to expand on this in my blog this morning. I linked back to you of course, as did, I notice, Lily Saintcrow in her blog at http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/journal/2012/02/the-chili-loving-mummy-of-the-met/
    Keep ’em coming Sir! I can’t seem to get enough of your writing wisdom.

  12. it was a regular sort of day. writing, sleeping, writing some more, think about eating, forget about eating, write something down that was absolutely necessary, forget what it meant 15 minutes later, really think about eating. READ THIS, spew on keyboard, while cleaning keyboard think about the next 25 – cause copeland, palahnuik, spanbauer are cool.- next 22 – 1st 11 – they make me do it – last 11 – too afraid to stop.
    thanks, this goes from a never read to a must read.

  13. Ah, Dr. Chuck, it is all true. My doctor and dentist shake their heads with sympathy when I tell them I know I drink too much, exercise too little, eat badly, swear, grind my teeth, forget to floss, and run naked through the marina at midnight looking for Valium dropped by rich girls who have recently visited their “uncles” aboard the mega yachts nearby, and say “it’s OK… it’s bad for you, but it’s better than the alternative.”

    • Ah, Dr. Chuck, it is all true. My doctor and dentist shake their heads with sympathy when I tell them I know I drink too much, exercise too little, eat badly, swear, grind my teeth, forget to floss, and run naked through the marina at midnight looking for Valium dropped by rich girls who have recently visited their “uncles” aboard the mega yachts nearby, and say “it’s OK… it’s bad for you, but it’s better than the alternative.”

      Best comment ever.

      — c.

  14. I can’t do anything else today. This post is too perfect. I laughed so hard I cried, and then I cried because it’s all absolute truth.

    “Crazy people hanging out with other crazy people just creates a crazy people feedback loop where the crazy recirculates again and again like a bad stink in an old car. Crazy begets crazy begets crazy.”

  15. No kidding; it’s all true. Taped to a vertical surface in my Insanity Grotto is an ochre newspaper clipping from 1999 about a guy who bludgeoned his wife ’cause some random guy thought she looked sad and bought her flowers.

  16. I have a theory about writers. I believe that all writers are addictive personalities, ultra susceptible to pleasurable stimuli. That’s why we write; what’s more pleasurable than creating entire worlds and universes, and holding the power of life and death over whole tribes and nations? God knows all about it.

    That’s also why every writer I know smokes, drinks, and get his or her rocks off in even stranger ways. Did you know that the dust that accumulates in the pages of an Arthur Conan Doyle book, while it’s sitting on the bottom shelf of a used book store for fifteen years, is highly hallucinogenic? Stir that shit into a mojito and you’ll trip balls.

  17. This is brilliant and very close to truth. You only forgot the part about how we take dictation from imaginary characters talking in our heads. But then we don’t admit that to non-writers. I mean, to any non-writer reading this, I’m joking. Seriously. Really. We make crap up.

  18. Such a country is Madness, for it knows no boundaries. Besides, I think sanity is highly overrated.

    I’ve got another for you list, Chuck:

    26: We Make the Things that go Bump in the Night

    Many fiction writers spend not-inconsiderable amounts of time thinking about monsters. Not “cheerful, ready to squat in a red and white ball” monsters, more “rip your head in half to drink those sweet, sweet, cranial juices” type monsters. Actively thinking about Things That Should Not Be is not conducive to sanity.

  19. I went to a shrink and left insisting that he was a quack. I must have some kind of psychosis and Phizer must be developing a drug called Elmore-al. Yep, I drink a little too much, talk to myself in public, have tantrums that would freak out Joan Crawford and have panic attacks in large crowds. So does my plumber, and he can’t even fill out a grammatically correct estimate.

    Gone crazy? I say crazy is a profession not a destination.

  20. I got THAT look when I did my taxes this weekend the the accountant asked me my profession. It went something like this:
    Accountant: “and what’s your profession?”
    Me: “I’m a writer.”
    Accountant looks at me with THAT look.
    Me: “Just put retail.”

  21. This post is hilarious. And, oh so true. I just re-read the first few, and burst into giggles. There were even tears. My husband thinks I’m crazy, he just gave me THAT look. I ask you, fellow crazies…I mean writers…I’m sane right?

    Thanks Chuck. I look forward to your 25 list posts.

  22. #1 reminds me of the King Missile song, “Jim.”

    Jim is a new character I just thought of today, but I warn you – don’t get too used to him. Don’t try to get to know him, don’t try to like him, because I’m gonna kill him. That is what I do. I invent people, and then I kill them.

    Jim walks with a limp, but don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter that he does, and it doesn’t matter why, because he’s going to die.”

  23. Just posted a pointer to this to all my RWA friends. So true, so true. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    I’ve been told that I make Murdoch on the A-Team look pretty sane.

    Kat, we must live in the same Marina.

  24. I was reading this and was interested till I read that Fox News is full of liars and then smiled and clicked X!! I’m only back to comment cause I cant find where to comment on FB!
    Fox News is not full of liars tey are the only ones who tell the good AND the bad! Whether you like what they say is up to you, but dont call them liars because you dont! You have just lost ONE reader!! GOOD BYE!

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