OCD and Writing

What OCD can do for my writing is to know the joy of a character being able to look up from a mountain of their own brokenness and experience the sublime joy it is to rise, rise, RISE!

While at a writer’s panel recently for my sci-fi romance Stealing Ares, I was asked a question about OCD that gave pause, serious pause. The audience member said, “I know this might be a loaded question, so feel free not to answer if it’s just too sensitive, but does having OCD help with your writing in any way?”

That one tripped me up. And she was right. It was loaded. So very loaded, on so many levels. My first thought was that I didn’t want to give this disorder that had tormented me any credit whatsoever. It had taken so much from me, from my daughter as well. It had robbed me of normalcy and sleep. It had made me feel a little hurt when someone would give me a weird look when I would ask, when I was younger, long before I understood what was going on in my head, “Do you ever…?” and they would look at me with their face all screwed up.

But truthfully, this audience member had a valid question, well worth answering. As much as I hate to credit OCD with anything, I believe it has helped me with my writing. It has certainly made me more empathetic. I understand pain. I understand wishing with all my heart and soul that I could control something, something in my own damn brain, and it getting the better of me, over and over again. I understand having to accept being a flawed character and seeing the beauty in that. I understand that others won’t understand.

Perhaps better stated, I get what it is to feel like an eternal outsider on some level. As in, I can explain to someone over and over again that OCD does not equal neatness (though some can experience a painful need for cleanliness or organization–I guarantee it won’t ever be cute or laughable–other sufferers can be very sloppy) and they will walk away thinking it simply has to do with being a neat freak. They won’t know what it is to see someone vomiting until they dry heave because they are in the grips of an OCD attack so violent it is threatening to take their sanity or very life from them. This was absolutely the case with my oldest child’s harm OCD. They will never scrape the depths of the OCD chasm and walk back out barely alive, changed forever, on every level imaginable. Much in the same way, a character will not be the same by the end of a book, obsessive-compulsive disorder can change you so thoroughly that you are not the same person you were when you first began your journey with it. I’d argue I’m a better person, a stronger, more compassion, empathetic person.

Perhaps the OCD had me checking for extra missed commas or misspelled words and that’s fine, but spellcheck or other writing programs can do that, but they can’t twist my soul, crush me, get in my face ask, “Now that you are shattered, what good can you possibly be now?”

What OCD can do for my writing is to know the joy of a character being able to look up from a mountain of their own brokenness and experience the sublime joy it is to rise, rise, RISE!

“What did OCD do for your writing?”

Why, thank you for asking.

Published by Kim Conrey

I'm a mom, writer, and runner. I write a blog about living with OCD and another about sci-fi and writing. I'm also the author of the sci-fi romance Stealing Ares.

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