By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers
I’m reaching a point in my current manuscript where I feel as though I’m starting to get a handle on things.
Well, that’s a relative term.
One never truly has a handle on things when one suffers from what is known as Not Good Enough Syndrome. You may have heard of this affliction. It’s non-specific, widely undocumented, and for the most part, difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms may include:
- Self doubt
- Second-guessing everything.
- Not liking anything.
- Lack of inspiration, ideas, or sanity.
- Isolated episodes of global panic (with intermittent aspirations of world-building).
- Private, self-contained tantrums, which can range in severity.
And there are subcategories, and of course, I have a few of those as well. Currently I’m in the throes of, There Aren’t Enough Damned Twists in this Book! (Yes! There is an actual exclamation point at the end! A demarcation of severity!)
Here are how my symptoms express themselves: If you have a thriller, then you’ve got to have twists. The problem—at least for me—is they never come easily. Hard as I try, I’m never able to simply think those up. Usually, they must arrive on their own terms. What this means is, there’s a lot of waiting. Some non-secular praying to nobody in particular. Perhaps what might even resemble a highly specialized, ancient ritual (translation: A lot of stomping and often loud, nonverbal communication).
This is my process, and as weird as it might be, and as hard as I’ve tried to change it, I’ve come to accept that I can’t. In some ways, I suppose, this has benefits, because it doesn’t often allow me the luxury of resting on my laurels—that’s another condition known as, Good Enough Syndrome (or in the layman’s vernacular, Just Plain Lazy).
So, what’s the prognosis? The treatment? How does one manage such seemingly unmanageable symptoms? After years of intensive study and observation, I’ve found a few tactics. Just in case you, or someone you love, suffers, I’ll share my detailed and highly non-scientific findings:
- Allow the ideas and words to come, and DON’T PANIC when they won’t—they will. They always do.
- Know that the harder the struggle (and if you don’t give up) the better the work.
- Never (Never!) compare your work to someone else’s. You are not them, and they are not you. Doing this will only take you to the Dark Place. I’ve been there. Trust me, It’s ugly.
- Exercise will clear the cobwebs and help hasten the muse.
- Externalizing your thought process is like breathing fresh air. It can be as easy has having someone sit and listen while you ramble on.
- Music can stir the emotions and ignite ideas in ways few other things can.
- Understand that anxiety will distort things and take you to Crazy Town. Another ugly place.
- When you’ve reached a clear impasse, it’s time to stop.
- Don’t forget why you write.
Onward, brave soldiers.