Addicted To Writing Or A Maladaptive Daydreamer?

My name is Chantelle and I am addicted to writing.

Or at least it feels that way… like a drug, a high, like something I crave for and cannot live without…

It’s always like this but its worse when a new story has truly captured me. Last week I blogged about the reasons people stop writing, and I mentioned that as a child and teenager, I wrote constantly and endlessly, before having a 10-year gap where I barely wrote at all. The way I am now is exactly the way I was as a kid and I recently discovered that it may even be a clinical condition. Maladaptive daydreaming is where people daydream so intensely that they subconsciously leave this world for one of their own creation. Within these made-up worlds, they create characters and storylines that they replay and tweak in their heads for their entire life. One person in this article https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/aug/28/i-just-go-into-my-head-and-enjoy-it-the-people-who-cant-stop-daydreaming described it as like putting Netflix on and I relate to that in a big way.

Image by Pheladi Shai from Pixabay

As a child, I was nicknamed cloth-ears by my parents because it appeared I was never listening. I was the daydreamer, the one never paying attention, the one in her own little world. At some point, around the age of eight, I realised I could write these daydreams or stories down and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I am at the mercy of the characters who live in my head and the drama that surrounds them. I identified so strongly with the people in the interview that the only difference between us was that I write my daydreams down and publish them as books! I kind of think these people are missing a trick if they don’t do the same!

I’ve blogged before about The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, and how the characters grew in my head at the age of twelve. I’d lie in my bed at night and move them around, like watching a film that I was in control of. I still do this now, every night. As that series will soon have a spin-off and a crossover book, I think it’s safe to say that my daydreams truly have control of me. I’m not sure whether I am addicted to writing, or whether I am an intense maladaptive daydreamer, but just in case you are curious, this is what it feels like:

  1. I can’t stop thinking about my story from morning until night. I wake up with an urge to write and a head load of possible scenes and conversations and then I go to bed and lie awake, dreaming up more. Every night I fall asleep with my characters in my head.
  2. I can switch between worlds with ease. One moment I will be fully submerged in my created universe, hearing their voices, seeing their movements, picking up on every facial expression or nuanced gesture, and the next I’ll be back in reality, teaching a class, paying for shopping, filling the car up with petrol. My mind seems to know when to switch back without too much disorientation.
  3. Having said that, I do sometimes find it hard to concentrate on other things and this is especially tricky when I am writing a new story that is going well. Some stories take time and patience and lots of rewriting, whereas some of them just write themselves. Those are the best but they do make it harder to switch between worlds. At the moment, my WIP is completely taking me over to the point of obsession, and I find it is all I can think about. I find myself drifting off into noticeably thicker daydreams when it’s like this…
  4. I get a nervous feeling in tummy, because I am scared I’ll not do it justice. The story plays out like a film or a TV show in my head and it looks perfect. Perfect locations, settings, characters and dialogue. Fight scenes look flawless yet realistic, dialogue is spot-on, facial expressions are just right and if I could just encapsulate it as it is in my head, it would be perfect. Yet the tricky bit is writing it and trying to make it how it is in my head so that the reader can see what I see. I am never sure I am up to the job and this can make me feel quite anxious at times.
  5. It feels like having a movie on pause when I’m not writing. When I’m not writing, I feel quite torn away from it, quite lost. It’s like I’ve been forced to put a good book down when I am dying to find out what happens next,. It feels like leaving a movie on pause. They are all just frozen until I can think about it or write it again.
  6. I can’t wait to get back to it. The frustration I feel when I cannot think about my stories, or write them, is quite awful at times. I don’t really want to live in this world, but I have to. Because of this, I am constantly longing to get back to my world, constantly pining for it and missing it when I’m not there.

Whether I am addicted to writing or just an intense daydreamer who writes them down, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Writing has saved me time and time again and without it I know I would struggle. What about you? Were you nicknamed a daydreamer as a child? Do you still daydream? Do you write them down? Feel free to comment and share!

The People In My Head

Being a writer means spending a lot of time observing people, writing down ideas, getting plot twists hit you in the middle of the night, hours leaning over a laptop keyboard pounding away and just as many hours staring helplessly at a blank screen. It also means editing, revising, proofreading and then all those on repeat. But one aspect of being a writer is a little less talked about and that is the phenomenon of having people living inside your head. And it really does feel like they live there. They don’t go away. Not for me anyway, not ever. All the books I have released have characters who at some point in my life have crawled inside my brain and set up camp. They’ve ignored the fact I am already working on a book and they have whispered and nudged and shouted and whined until they got their turn. You would think that once I have given them attention and written their story they would leave me alone, but you would be wrong. They stay there forever and sometimes pipe up again with ideas for a sequel… Writing their story does seem to shut them up a bit though. They seem happy enough to step back and take a back seat for a while. I guess they get bustled out of the way by all the desperate new ones. I have all my old characters in my head, and then I have the new ones too. These are the really noisy, insistent ones. They all want to be next. They overlap and jump the queue and keep me awake at night. They make it hard for me to concentrate on what people in real life are doing or saying! They distract me and overwhelm me and ultimately, they don’t stop talking until they feel they have been heard. So, as well as the old ones, these are some of the new characters I currently have living in my head. You’ll get to meet them all properly in time, but here is a sneak peek, if you like. Maybe introducing them to you will give me a little respite from them!

Hello Johnny – I know you are still there, still lurking, hovering, muttering in the background. I know you have bad asthma and are massively introverted so highly unlikely (at least in your dad’s eyes) to survive a zombie apocalypse – but once you are forced to move and act, you’re going to prove them all wrong aren’t you? You’re going to become a total bad-ass and a hero. Don’t worry, I’ve got the story, all of it, some of it in the notebook and the rest of it in my head because you’ve been very vocal lately. You’ve been through a lot already and you are a survivor. You are secretly in love with Billie, the girl in the cloak you met on the road – and you feel like its important to put down every single undead human even if it means risking your life to do so. A part of you enjoys all this and its that which keeps you awake at night. You are trying to get back home back to where you started, to wrestle it back from those who forced you out. Because you can do it now. You are not afraid. I’m listening, I am. Keep talking, keep moving, keep telling me your journey.

Reuben, Gus, Chess, George, Charlotte.…Gosh there are a lot of you. A whole community, in fact. Picking up the pieces after the adults were wiped out. I’ve left you alone for a while. I needed a break. But you’ve been creeping back, haven’t you? Letting me know that you are still there, hanging out in the remains of the old world, clinging to what you can, surviving, together. I love you all. I can hear you. It’s nearly time for you all to be heard.

Jesse, Willow, Jaime, Ralph, Paddy… yep, I can hear you too. I tried to shut you out for a long time but you guys really started hammering on the door recently didn’t you? I had you, I had your creepy town Black Hare Valley, but I didn’t really have the plot. But you guys started helping me with that and here we are… I’ve got the end in sight now, I know what you have to do, who you have to take down, why and how. It’s going to be quite a fight but you guys are stronger than you think. We’ve still got a lot of work to do as you come alive inside my head. So, keep talking. Knock back. Whisper in the night. Speak up on long walks. Let me know what you want and we’ll keep pushing to the finish line, I promise.

Alfie and Tom… You’ve been getting some attention recently. I’ve been plodding on, listening to you, looking back into your past to see you as children, to see what shaped you to become the men you are today. It’s been interesting, and traumatic, but we are getting there. Sometimes just a paragraph a day, sometimes more. You’ve been in my head for years! It was when I was writing the fifth book in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series that you came forward, shyly suggesting your own storyline, your own place in that last book. You became so real, so much a part of that world, that I just had to give you your own book, your own time, your own back stories. I’m getting to know you better and I like that.

Lou… I know, I know, I started your sequel, then left it, started it then left it…. I’m sorry! All these other people started showing up, demanding their own time, desperate to be heard. I’ve got it all though, so don’t worry – I know what happens and I am sorry – It’s going to be another tough ride for you, maybe your toughest yet. You’ll grow up in this sequel, both you and Joe. Keep talking, I am still listening. You might just have to shout a bit louder than the rest of them!

There are others too. Once who don’t even have names yet… They wander in from time to time, muttering and shaking their heads. They’re not loud enough yet but one day they will be.

Why I Love Writing #4; Nothing Is Ever Wasted

I suppose actors must feel like this too. I’m too introverted to have ever given acting a thought, but I can empathise with the urge to play around with emotions and reactions. To consider them, analyse them, practice them even. For this reason, writing offers up another reason to love it. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing is ever meaningless. Everything I experience or observe in life can be used in writing.

This happened to me today, and then I started thinking about it, which led to me choosing it as the next reason on this series of posts.

I was out dog-walking when some recent worries suddenly caught up on me and I dissolved into unexpected tears. There was no one else around, so I guess my brain just seized upon the opportunity to let rip for a moment or two. My youngest child had a routine operation last week which all went well, but the recovery at home has been a lot tougher than we expected. To check all was okay, I’d called my surgery to request a phone call from the GP who had wanted to see my son as soon as possible. I knew in my gut and my heart that my son was going to be okay, but I guess a number of days holding it in and generally being exhausted had caught me up. I had a little cry about it, but then my mind did what it always does when I get emotional about something.

I started imagining I was one of my characters. I slotted instantly into a book I have not yet written, but have planned and plotted. A potential scene, a very upsetting one, started coming together very quickly in my head. My tears quickly dried up, but in my imagination, as my character, they carried on flowing. Before I knew it, I had walked further than I had intended, and my mind had shifted my worries from my real life into the fictional worlds I so often visit.

It’s fair to say, I used my genuine emotions to imagine how my character was feeling. As the anguish turned to anger for my character, I started to feel pissed off too. I snapped out of it at the appropriate time and felt a swell of excitement for the book I’m not yet ready to write.

I’m not sure if other writers will get this, or know what I mean, but I tend to feel that in my life, uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and experiences are quite welcome, because I can use them to improve my writing. The same goes for boredom, frustration, elation and excitement. Anything. Everything. Nothing is ever wasted or forgotten. The tiniest things, the most mundane of moments, the passing of time in a doctors surgery, the wind in my hair as I wander down a narrow country lane, the people in the distance, the cars passing on the road, the buzzard in the sky, the rain pelting down, the clutch of fear in my gut, the exhaustion pounding at my head, the hilarious thing a friend just said or did, the minor characters who all play their part in the story of my life, everything, anything, all of it is useful. All of it is observed, considered, anaylsed and absorbed. All of it is fuel. All of it is material. alone-2666433_1920.jpg

Why I Love Writing #1; I Don’t Have To Live In This World

There’s so much to say about why I love writing so much, I thought I would pen a little blog post series on the subject. It’s easier to break it down into separate pieces that way. There are just so many reasons I love writing!

typewriter-751566_1280

If anyone asks me why I love writing, I’ll usually answer by explaining that I get all these characters and ideas in my head and just have to write them down, or I would go mad.

But it’s really so much more than that. For me, writing is very similar to reading and the things that attract me are the same. When I’m absorbed in a really good book, it’s like entering another world. We all know that feeling. Maybe you get it from reading or from watching films or from listening to or playing music. You’re removed from the real world. You’re lifted above it and beyond it. You’re in the past, or the future, on another planet, another time, living and observing and experiencing another life. For a small and precious amount of time, until something in the real world interrupts you, you are gone. You’re not part of the real world and are utterly disconnected from your real life.

For me, writing provides the same thing. When I was a child, I was shy and awkward and extremely quiet. I melted into the background and both liked and resented this. There were things about the real world and my real life that I did not like and wished to escape from, and writing gave me this. Maybe even more so than reading a book, because writing your own stories is even more liberating. You’re in control, you’re like God, the puppet master, creating and destroying and moving people around like chess pieces. Once I started writing, I drifted away from the real world quickly and dramatically. I created my own.

People used to say to me all the time; ‘you’re in your own little world, aren’t you?’ And it was true. I really was.

paris-823883_1280

People still say that to me now, and these days writing is there when I don’t want to live in the real world anymore. And let’s face it, things are pretty bad right now. It sometimes feels like the destruction of this planet is something I simply cannot bear. It’s so pointless and needless, so utterly senseless how can any sane person possibly understand it? And then there are people. Human nature, such a complex, multi-layered thing. There are days when I’m floored by how cruel and heartless humans can be and I truly fear we’ve reached the end days, not just on the planet, but in our humanity. It feels so desolate and without hope. Of course, there are just as many days when humans surprise and delight me, and I remind myself that most of them are basically good and trying to be good. But on the bad days? Writing is an absolute Godsend. I couldn’t survive without it.

It’s in my head when I can’t physically get to pen, paper or laptop. So I’m already removed. I’m calmer. Less weighed down, less frantic, less panicked. Like when I was a kid, I’m off inside my own head. Entertaining myself. The stories go with me everywhere. I am never alone. And then when I get the time to sit and put pen to paper, or tap at the keys on my laptop, I’m gone again. I’m lost inside my own head and I’m free.

To me, writing sometimes feels like a rebellious act. Because when it revolts or disappoints me, I cannot be forced to live in this world. I’ll go if I want to. I’ll check out. I don’t have to stay. I can write.