Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Last night, I went from itching to write straight into Post Manuscript Malais Disorder (PMMD).

This condition is when you've finished a manuscript and the glow of accomplishment has worn off leaving you feeling like a useless hack who couldn't write prose if you tried. I'm convinced PMMD is responsible for those stories you hear about writers who suddenly up and destroy everything they've ever written. Last night a bonfire in the front yard sounded like it would've been the perfect place to store all my writing.

Thank goodness I could never bring myself to actually do that. Think about it? Yes. Do it? No.

PMMD is similar to an advanced case of the squirms (when you're in the middle of a project and you get to feeling like you're writing crap, so you stop writing and can't get started again - like writers' block, but squirmier). At least with the squirms you've got an unfinished project you're worried about. With PMMD, everything you've ever written is in question.

Hence, the bonfire.

I stayed away from the computer last night because I wasn't sure how bad this PMMD thing was. I sat on the couch and watched football. I finished reading Lord of the Fading Lands, and started Lady of Light and Shadows, by CL Wilson. I smoked a lot. I didn't burn or delete anything. Then I went to bed. Lucky me woke up and the PMMD was mostly gone.

If you suspect you have PMMD, get help before you do something you'll regret. (Like wiping your hard drive or having the above mentioned bonfire.) If you suspect someone you love has PMMD, use any means possible to keep them away from their manuscripts.

Warning signs for PMMD:
- Mumbles incessantly (words such as 'crap', 'hack', 'loser' and 'junk' will be liberally applied)
- Cries after reading a book, not because of the emotions invoked by the writing, but because they can't believe how much better the book was than anything they could've thought of.
- Watches the show Dirty Jobs for ideas on a new career - anything that doesn't involve writing is good.
- Any and all boxes, piles, and folders containing materials related to writing have suddenly disappeared, and the person is wandering around looking for the bottle of lighter fluid they used for last summer's barbeque.

Don't let this happen to you. The pages you save may be your own.

Fess up. Have you ever had, or known someone who's had PMMD? Are there other warnings signs the world should know about?

We can put an end to PMMD, but only if we work together.

ETA: The only known cure for PMMD is to get back to work, so I started a new project this morning. Totally not my typical work in progress. A light-hearted romp through the hard-boiled detective novel--my tongue-in-cheek homage to Erle Stanley Gardner and Mickey Spillane.


Travis Erwin said...

I too have experienced PMMD but lately I've been plagues with WMIAH (Wrote Myself Into A Hole) but early this morn, while sleepless due to a head cold I grabbed a shovel and got a good start digging myself out.

The ups and downs of writing are a lot of fun, huh?

WordVixen said...

Right now I'm looking forward to the day when I have PMMD- because it means that I'll have actually finished a manuscript. I do, however, get serious bouts of the squirmies almost every time I start to write something someone else will read (except my blog, although even that used to give me the squirmies). Problem is, my latest bout of the squirmies is making me want to hunt out the lighter fluid. And I don't even have a manuscript to show for it.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Ack, Travis, I hate that. I'm glad you're digging out. Heh. Writing is a crazy business, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

You can do it, WordVixen. (The writing, not the bonfire.) The first book is always the hardest, but I found just sitting down and making myself finish helped a lot. Don't sweat what people will think about it until after you're done revising the hell out of it, and then send it to people you trust for quality input. After you tweak the problems those people point out, you won't worry about what people think - because by then it'll be a shining gem. =oD