18 July, 2011 by katelaity

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~ E. L. Doctorow

I got into a discussion with a friend at Readercon this weekend about writing and the voices in your head — or rather, the voices in my head, which I argued are perfectly normal. He disagreed, but my voices shouted him down.


I know the equation: hearing voices = madness. I must admit it was always a fear of mine that I could lose my only asset (as I saw my brain); as a teenager I was always drawn to YA novels about the crazy girls like I Never Promised You A Rose Garden or Lisa Bright & Dark. I guess I thought it would prepare me for that eventuality (I assumed) in the way that good novels for young people do make them feel as if they have ways to cope with the dangers that lurk out there.

Now, I can’t say why I was always afraid of that* other than the fact that I was aware at a very young age that my brain worked differently from other peoples’ brains. It was the kind of thing that made people look at me with raised eyebrows and taught me by my teen years to keep a lot of my thoughts to myself. Of course as I’ve gotten older, I don’t mind the occasional stare (as many of you well know) and I count on the reputation for eccentricity that goes along with both being a writer and a medievalist. That and I always make certain to stand next to people who make me look quite normal in comparison (it’s a pity, Michael Jackson died, eh?).

While I don’t claim to have a brain the size of a planet, I know I’m reasonably quick to pick up things in many situations and make connections across categories that don’t always occur to other people. So my brain seems to function well enough. Like a lot of writers, I have vivid sounds, pictures and yes, voices up there, too. Maybe that does mean that all writers are, ahem, “highly functioning schizophrenics” (I believe that was the phrase). I guess the key is “highly functioning” in that context. I put those voices to work! I suppose as long as I remain the one in charge of the circus, there’s not much to worry about.


[*Well, there was the whole Wonderland obsession which continues unabated…]


5 thoughts on “Madness

  1. janachantel says:

    I have to agree that most writers do have voices in their head, but I don’t think we are crazy. As a writer myself, I have to admit that I hear voices in my head. It sounds like my voice, but I guess it’s a voice nonetheless. For me it just helps me get my thoughts out more clearly and smoothly. But we writers are some unique creatures.

    I don’t think that we should be labeled as crazy or anything like that though.

    I’ll appreciate it if you checked out my blog it’s about me trying to become a successful published author.

  2. Todd Mason says:

    Mm. Of course, one of the key things is that so many writers use alcohol to still those voices in their heads when they have them…hence, alcoholism is The Writer’s Disease. And not just writers, of course.

    While editors just do too much uppers.

  3. katelaity says:

    T-T-T-T-Totally wired! I don’t know what you’re talking about… okay I lie. Well, you’ve seen my nails and their state quite clearly. As you know, we had a long discussion about this and no clearer on the answer but yeah, it’s a risk. Writing does tend to lead to madness and crazy links. Why, I don’t know.

  4. […] probably talk about the pros and cons of our multiple voices and identities, something I’ve written about previously, but it’s always a work in progress (as is […]

  5. […] probably talk about the pros and cons of our multiple voices and identities, something I’ve written about previously, but it’s always a work in progress (as is […]

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