OCD and the Writer

Sometimes I like my OCD tendencies. Other times, I’m grateful that it’s a mild affliction and I’m not stuck at my front door checking the lock five times before heading to bed each evening. Sure, I’d like to be a bit more obsessive about keeping the house clean, but when I wanted to work on that story idea I’d sketched out six months ago, my perfectly organized writing folders made it simple.

Reading is one of those things where I can both embrace and loathe OCD. I love it because I have a shelf dedicated to unread books, all organized by genre, interest level, and likelihood that I’d pick it up at a random moment of needing something non-electronic to read. I know what I already have and I know what I’ve yet to purchase. Same with the Kindle. I have several “collections” on the device that are labeled and organized perfectly. Plus I have a spreadsheet with columns for reading challenges, to buy / already bought, and sub-genres. I take great pleasure marking a book as read on the spreadsheet, and scanning the list to choose which one to read next. I really do.

Yes, there are “other times” with my Kindle too. Those reading challenges, for example. I love them, because they help me choose what to read next, new books and authors to try, and force me to focus on what I’ve already downloaded before my TBR (to be read) list grows larger. At the same time, I find it very difficult to walk away from a challenge that I’m not enjoying. I have a strong need to participate even if the list of books isn’t particularly interesting. One such challenge is from the M/M Romance group on GoodReads.com. Every month the group selects ten categories (three reoccurring themes and seven rotating Best Of lists or bookshelves). Most months, I love picking out my ten reads, even though I know I’m unlikely to read all ten. It doesn’t even bug my OCD to not finish them all. Occasionally, like March’s challenge, I can’t find ten I want to read. At this point, what I should do is simply sign up for just the shelves / lists that I want to read. But I don’t. I sit there and hem and haw over the remaining lists, wondering if I just might like that angel story, or if I could try that one author that didn’t do it for me just one more time. Quite often, I pick a book I’m not fully interested in, just to fill out all ten spots on the challenge, and then run out of time to read it anyway. The challenge specifically says we don’t have to pick from every single category, but yet… I do.

So, for March, I go through these motions, wondering if I should try a new angel author and finding it amusing that I love to write about angels, but can’t find a book on the Best Of Gay Angels list that I want to read. Okay, I tell myself. I don’t need to participate in the challenge this month. I have plenty to read, and I’m going on vacation, so I’ll just plow through what’s already on the device and I won’t even miss the challenge. I closed the Word document where I’d listed six of the ten categories, and then closed the GoodReads challenge page.

Ten minutes later, I had seven of the ten categories chosen, and was reading through a list of Coming of Age stories. I had one of them on my device, but it was already ear-marked for a different category. Hmm… maybe I could move it and then pick something from that other list?

I managed to close the window again, but not before wondering how much time I’d already spent trying to fill out ten spaces, and then wondering how many words I could’ve written in that time. Top that off with wondering why the OCD doesn’t kick in more often when working on a manuscript draft. This line of thought only ceases when I suddenly remember that my last client of the day had interrupted my reading and I had not stopped at a chapter break. I can’t have that. I had to finish reading that chapter!

Pia Veleno



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