Schizophrenia and Writing

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

As a writer, I see the validity in this quote and have to agree… To an extent, because I will not admit to schizophrenia in any form.


Writing does expose much of who you truly are. Often your work will not be a reflection of the life you live on a daily basis. Even if it does reflect how you live, it will still advertise why you live the way you do. For example, I live a pretty quiet life. My words are few, but my opinions are strong. So if you take this combination, any of my acquaintances may be taken aback by some views that I have on racism, classism, sexism or any other ism. While I do not share my views and opinions on everything and with everyone, I do feel as though everyone should hold a view and opinion on everything; and if not everything, as much as possible.

I believe that most of the world’s problems come from simply an extreme excess of  talking and advising and not nearly enough listening and reasoning. This is not a new theory though; and is in fact a common one among writers and philosophers. Most of each profession will rarely be outspoken because they spend most of their time observing. So when they write, the belligerence and boldness in their tones and styles will starkly contrast the quiet persona that you may be more accustomed to. The writer, takes a topic in question, analyze it, writes it out, revises it and then publishes it for public reading. For that writing to relevant or influential, it may have to go against general perception. Whereas a banker may think the exact same thing, his job is not display his personal thoughts to the world. That can be an intimidating place to put yourself in.

There is a fear that accompanies writers that few other professions will experience. We put our thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, dreams, fears and everything else that you can think of on paper for the world to indulge in; then await a sign of a approval. The first thing is to realize, is that there is no way everyone will agree with the way you view things; hence “Perspective” Park. The second thing is that the more truthful you are with yourself, the more you will speak out on those perspectives and views, no matter how personal they are to you. Then, the more you do that, the more your daily life and written life will start to merge; streamlining into an unashamed and complete individual, needing less approval now having more confidence.

The next time you ask a writer to share, consider that every written word belongs to a thought in that writer’s mind. Every page belongs to a day in his/her life. Each chapter uncovers another layer of what would have been unknown emotions and every character has a real face despite the words describing them. The way a writer values their works is indicative of the how much of themselves went into it. The more of themselves went into it, the harder it can be open up to sharing. Until that long bridge of fear can be crossed and the fact that the paper is fused with the life of the person does not matter, there will always reluctance.

I like to think of Ernest Hemingway, the author of The Old Man and the Sea. When he published that classic he had become an old man who simply enjoyed fishing, and from that came one of the greatest literary works in American history. But would he have been able to publish that as a young man? Would he have been comfortable displaying or could he even properly conveyed all of the insecurities and frailties which he had faced in aging? As a writer myself, I don’t think so. The emotions conveyed by any character in any story all come from a single person’s mind and heart, and usually that mind and heart has experienced what is being read. So even though society may accept, the schizophrenia that is a writer, the writer does not always readily accept the separation of life and literature. It takes years of practice before the two are one and the same, and it takes patience and courage to do so.

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