Friday, October 4, 2013

Writers: So Maybe Hearing Voices Isn't That Crazy After All

One confused little violet who thinks it's May instead of October.

I had this crazy idea to ask everyone, well, my writer friends anyway, why they write. I don't know why, maybe (make that probably) to understand why I write. If you really stop and think about it, we spend months writing a story, living with the characters we create talking in our heads, waking us up at night and forcing us to write their words on sticky notes before we forget them.

Does this sound familiar?

More importantly, is this normal?

The mission of understanding why we (I) write with regard to our (my) mission in life is a really big topic that can't be tackled all at once, but I read something recently that helped me understand something really intrinsic about, maybe I'm not so crazy after all.

The great writer and activist George Orwell (1903-1950), whom we all know from his classic novels Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, wrote an essay in 1946 called Why I Write. Here's one of many parts that caught my eye (It's a little long but I've bolded what I thought was fascinating):

"But side by side with all this [writing activities he describes], I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind:  this was the making up of a continuous 'story' about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my 'story' ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head:  'He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted onto the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across tot he window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf', etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The 'story' must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality."

This just bowled me over. The description of an inner narrative that reads like a book...does anybody else's brain do this? Well, mind does and that is scary, but to have it described,'s very validating! Like, it might just be almost normal to hear voices in your head (if you're a writer, anyway).

So do you hear voices in your head? Have you for a long time? Do you know why you write? Do you see yourself in this passage? Feel free to share. (I'm going to share the thoughts I've been collecting next week.)

Everyone stopped to take pics of this fabulous rainbow yesterday.

No impatiens in Ohio this year--they all got killed by a fungus last year. But somehow found this one single flower in my garden!


  1. I do! I do! Since I was a child I've had conversations going on in my head between imaginary people (sounds crazy now that I write it down) along with backstories and descriptions of the situations they were in, but not exactly the descriptive narrative that Orwell described. I guess I'm a dialog-first girl! I was usually one of these fictional characters interacting with others in the "scene". I never realized until later that it meant I was a writer!

    My children's schools have had writing programs in place from the earliest ages, and I think it's so wonderful because it gives kids the message that "you can be a writer" or "you may be a writer". If I'd experienced something like that, I would have discovered my passion and vocation earlier. All the signs were there, but I didn't realize until much later that there was an application for them.

    Really interesting to read his words on this and such an interesting post, Miranda!

  2. Hi Amy! Your comments make me understand the connection between acting and writing. First I hear it in my head, then I write it down, but then I have to read it out loud. Funny, I'd never be able to get up on a stage and act yet in my head, all the world's a stage! Strange...
    Thought of you YA GH women as I've been listening to Meg Cabot's Teen Idol in my car this week (got it for 50 cents at library book sale). And boy does her dialogue sparkle! It is spot on. I don't know if dialogue in YA is more important than other things, but wow, it is simply amazing. I am floored. Love it!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Miranda,

    Great post, and what a brave little impatien. :-) I think it's a sign there's always hope.

    I've never seen myself like that, but my characters do carry on dialogs in my head. I'm not sure why, but other than when I'm actually writing, they talk the most when I'm cooking dinner, in the shower and trying to fall asleep. All times when it's not convenient to stop what I'm doing and write it down. Over the years, I've trained myself to memorize these dialogs.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Hi Sandy,
    Wow, they actually bug you when you're not working :)
    Lucky you...if I don't write it down, poof...gone. The worst is when I read the stickies and I have absolutely no clue what I am talking about!
    Have a nice weekend!

  5. I started writing as a young child, mostly little girl lost, Cinderella stories where the prince or maiden aunt rescues the damsel from obvious peril.

    I think every writer will admit (at least to others in the industry) that they hear voices, and these voices become adamant especially when ignored. I had a character in a dark place, recovering from injury and the loss of his wife. These voices attacked my sleep every night until I wrote a suicide pact into my story. It never entered my conscious mind before that, and I didn’t want it there. But I finally gave in so I could get some sleep.

    I love that George Orwell admitted that he not only heard voices, but they were descriptive. Great post, Miranda.

  6. Wow, Barb. Funny how you say some of the stuff you don't want to write about--but you feel compelled. Sometimes it takes us to dark places! I am nearing the climax of my story when all hell is breaking loose and everyone is miserable..and guess what...I can't sleep well and I'm agitated and miserable too! I can't wait to write myself out of this mess! Thanks for posting. great seeing you yesterday :)