Writing, insanity, obsession, and poetry

There’s this pesky little bi-product of Tourette’s Syndrome called obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both my TS and OCD are mild, thank God, or I’d be a full moon short of complete lunacy living with 6 dogs, one of whom is 2-legged—none of whom seem to be able to learn how to put things back where they found them. That may be all right for most people, but when you’re half blind and dyslexic, the dog leash might be hanging over your office chair but you may never see it until someone tells you it’s there.

Fortunately, the OCD has found a long-term home, but it’s an obsession that’s pushing my family ever closer to the cliffs of insanity. Not that they had far to go to get there. My premise is that anyone born on Earth who has lived on this planet for 5 years is already insane. Why would I say that? Consider what we’re taught from the time we’re able to toddle to the first coffee table of our short little lives and tear up a magazine, or when it’s hot outside and clothing should be optional, or when we internalize the message that God doesn’t like a gossip then repeat to our neighbor what dad repeated to people in church and end up in the naughty corner for it. You learn that you’re not as important as the magazine, your body is bad, and you’re punished if you tell the truth. And if you tell a lie. Things like that would drive anyone insane.

My, BAID (My, But Alas I Digress). My mild OCD has found its expression in writing. I don’t just write a few minutes a day—I’m up at 4am with an idea. I’ll write until my eyes see pieces of black letters on a gray background, I’ll listen to my writing with a text reader and headphones until the top of my head can’t stand wearing them any longer. And it’s not just any story.

I started out with a book that took years to complete. The problem is that I was starting out in the middle, so I took the advice of a very wise person who does manuscript analysis and tried to find the first book. After my son and my sister read some of what I thought was the first book, I was advised I hadn’t gone back far enough.

That would discourage most people, but not my friend OCD. No—OCD was thrilled beyond my capacity to express it and once again found great pleasure in dragging my anxieties kicking and screaming behind him as I was compelled to place on paper what was spinning around in a head that couldn’t stop the recurring story. Well—as I mentioned in the last paragraph, the first story I wrote took years. This story took 2 months to find its way onto paper. Then, the next story had to be written, and the next, and the next. There is 1 more in between the one I’m writing now and the one I wrote that I thought was the first book. And that book is about 4 books away from the one I originally wrote. How many books will I have when I’m finished? Over 10—that’s all I can say right now. I have to wait for OCD to decide he’s through with me which, if things continue along these lines won’t be until I’m dead.

As you can see if you’re reading this, I also like writing blogs. The one thing I have never been able to understand is poetry. Every time I try to write poetry it comes out something like this:

There Once was a writer, Jo Ellen
Who hated the cantaloupe melon
It tasted like vomit
With urine upon it
And what came up next ain’t worth tellin’.

I think you can see my dilemma with the craft. Fortunately, poetry is my son’s domain and as an associate professor who speaks 5 languages (3 of them fluently) and has several published poetry chapbooks, I’d say he knows how to write poetry quite well. Where he got that particular gift is pure conjecture. Probably an obscure gene that sneaks into the genome with the language gene—which was passed down from his grandfather on my mother’s side who was a spy in Cuba for Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American war. Yes, it’s that far back in history. The only thing I do know is where he acquired his Tourette’s Syndrome. Of all the things I wanted him to inherit from me, TS wasn’t one of them. Poetry, I can forgive.

All right—I’m digressing again. Today I’ll try to finish the 3rd book and work on the 5th one—but OCD is trying to hurry me to the 6th. No matter how many books come out of this experience, or if they’re ever published, I have to admit that my anxiety might be unhappy with OCD right now, but I wake up excited about life every day. Writing makes life worth living.