Writing with OCD

CW for discussion of OCD and compulsive thoughts, so heads up.

I’ve been back and forth about whether or not to write a post like this, but then I was reminded of one of the goals I set for myself at the start of this year – be more open about mental health and the #issues that influence my life – and decided to just go for it.

First it should be said that OCD presents differently in everybody. What it looks like for me will not be what it looks like for someone else. So with that in mind, let’s talk about my particular OCD and how it presents in my writing.

My books have to be symmetrical. Or something bad will happen. (What something bad? I don’t know but my brain says BAD.)

Take Wildergirls for example. The book is written sections that can be represented as an A B C B A structure, which is, no surprise, also symmetrical. The A sections must (mustmustmust) have the same number of chapters, and the same goes for the B sections. The C section gets a little more leniency but you better believe if it’s not an odd number of chapters I’ll be biting my nails over it for at least a week.

In itself, I think that preference for neatness and symmetry is probably one I share with thousands of writers. But what makes this more than a preference, and what identifies it for me as a product of OCD, is the fear of altering the structure. It’s the intrusive thoughts that come when I consider moving a chapter from one section to another for the sake of the plot.

Wildergirls lent itself fairly well to symmetry, but the draft of my newest project is proving a little more difficult. I keep staring at the outline, at the first act with its six chapters and the third act with its five, and trying somehow to make them match.

Whatever I do, it will wind up weakening the story. The first act will feel too rushed if I compress it. The third will feel slow if I extend it. But I have to.

Like… I have to.

In 2018 I’m aiming to get better at pushing past this roadblock, so to speak. At doing what’s best for the story and not what’s best for the OCD hobgoblin in my head. (Except for the bit where I can’t use the same adjective more than once every 50 pages – that bit’s actually helpful. I’m keeping that one.)

Writers, with OCD and without, do you have any tips? Any ways of tricking your brain into not caring so much?




2017 In Review

I think here’s where I’m supposed to write something meaningful about the year we’re leaving behind. But honestly, what is there to say that you haven’t read somewhere else? That this year was a MESS? That it was hard to create in the face of what’s happened in this country, in this world? You know all that already. We’re all tired. Let’s just get this done and get to midnight already and take a NAP.

Hang on for a minute while I get some more wine.


(Questions pulled from here, with the years changed and some questions omitted, and a thank you to Alexandra Bracken’s blog post here for the idea!)

Words written: about 100k, on two projects (revisions on Wildergirls and drafting a new project)

Books read: I have NO idea, but I’m fine with that

What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

I sold my first book! I’ve been dreaming about this (whether or not I admitted it to myself) since I was five years old and I still cannot believe that there will be a book out there with my name on it. People will hold it in their hands. CAN U BELIEVE

If you had to describe your 2017 in 3 words, what would they be?

Productive, gutting, gritty.

What new things did you discover about yourself?

That I can produce a lot more, more quickly, than I thought I could. At the beginning of 2017 I thought I could only hit about 1,000 words a day, but by the end I had pushed myself and figured out that if I want to, and if I keep focused, I can double that. I’m hoping to keep pushing myself in years to come.

What was your favorite place that you visited in 2017?

Middlebury, Vermont is always a favorite. I got to spend some time there at the beginning of this year to write Wildergirls, and practically lived at Sama’s (which now goes by another name, I think?) every day while finishing that draft.

Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?

Lol hi Mom

Which new skills did you learn?

I mentioned this above, but I learned to increase my output, so I guess I’d say that my new skills are writing at least 2,000 words a day and moving more quickly through the drafting process. It’s my least favorite part of the writing process and I’m really pleased to be learning to move through it more efficiently.

Which mental block(s) did you overcome?

Phone calls aren’t terrible! I mean, yes, they are, but I can make them a bit easier now than I could before, and I think that’s down to calling my Senators and Congresspeople more this year than I ever have before.

What book or movie or TV show affected your life in a profound way?

The Last Jedi (movie)
Bojack Horseman (TV)
Every Heart a Doorway (book)

What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?

Making those prepackaged Starbucks Peppermint Mochas. Playing with my dog in the park by our house. Seeing half price movies with my mom.

What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

IMPATIENT. This was a year of waiting, and I know that it will continue to be a common thread in my life, but this was the year I had to learn to deal with it.

What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?

Um, which one of my thousand lipstick purchases should I put here? Wait – I have it. Bless Sephora Flash shipping.

What did you think about more than anything else?

That orange-faced nightmare child and all of that bullshit.

What new habits did you cultivate?

I stopped biting my nails, which I’ve been trying to do pretty much since I was born.


What do you want the overarching theme for your 2018 to be?


What do you want to see, discover, explore?

I want to go on another solo trip. My last real solo trip/vacation was a trip to Brighton in 2016 and I loved it so, so much. Maybe to Canada, to Lake Louise, or back to England to visit my grad school fam.

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2018?

My grad school fam, and my best friend from my hometown, who I talk with regularly but almost never get to see.

Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?


What do you want your everyday life to be like?

More cooking! More friends! More routine!

Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

Wake up earlier. Keep drinking water and not soda. Keep growing my nails. COOK.

What do you want to achieve career-wise?

Sell more bookz.

On My Desk This Month: November 2017

Hello friends – hoping your November treated you well! Mine was a bit of a blur. Like so many other people I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that I can write more per day than I think I can, so I tried to write 2,000 words a day for November. Most of the time, it went okay, so we’re counting that as a victory.

But enough with writing and life things – on to Stuff, my one true love. (Wow, I am the Worst.)


  • No real new nail polish fave this month, but I am suuuuper excited for two nail polishes I ordered during Black Friday – Point Zero and Aquarius, both from KL Polish.
    • ETA: they arrived and I love them. The formula is BEAUTIFUL and the brush is nice and wide, not like the Essie brushes.
  • Ten Years, the new Aly & AJ EP (I KNOW! ALY AND AJ! CAN U BELIEVE) which is honestly so so good
    • The Distance is my favorite track currently
  • Haven’t tried any new candles, and instead have been returning to my FOREVER FAVE (which I may have already mentioned on here), Holiday by Nest. After burning through two of the regular sized ones, I bit the bullet and bought the three wick. It’s amazing.
  • The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden, because my lovely lovely agent Jessica sent me an ARC
  • Have I talked about what a Nest stan I am yet? Because wow wow wow Citrine by Nest is everything. They do fresh scents like nobody else.
  • A Buxom gloss in Mudslide – these glosses are SO good but beware the plumping tingling, which is intense. I don’t mind it at all, but I know some people find it uncomfortable.
  • Scrivener, because I finally figured out how to use it.
  • WALK THE MOON’s new album
    • All Night and One Foot in Front of the Other are current faves

What have been your favorites this month?

It happened!

wildergirls deal announcement

That’s me! That’s my book!

I’ve known about this for maybe two weeks or so and it has been the WOOOOORST keeping it to myself but today I finally get to tell people about it. So this is me, telling you about it.

For a longer synopsis you can click here, and for some general aesthetic/vibes stuff, you can see the book’s Pinterest board here.

I can’t wait for you to read about my island and my girls. They are horrible; they are angry; they are their very worst selves, and I love them quite a bit.

Rediscovering Lost Loves

Found this today as I was putting together a playlist for the project that has no name:

Soneto de la noche, Morton Lauridsen, performed by Polyphony

It doesn’t suit at all – far too rich and full of joy – but I was reminded of how deeply I love this piece, and how solidly my music background sits at the core of me. I haven’t heard it in years, and it almost hurts to listen to it, to be reminded of a part of my life I don’t engage with much anymore.

With this new project, though it’s only tangentially related to music, I’d like to try to bring that feeling to life. That feeling of sitting in pews alongside my friends, sharing sheet music, watching the hands of our conductor (who wore the most ostentatious pinky ring you’ve ever seen) for our cues, and hearing our sound spiral up into the chapel sky.

This piece is everything I loved. I hope you love it, too.

Back in the Saddle

Full disclosure: for at least 30 seconds I thought “Back in the Draddle” (like… drafting saddle) was a hilarious title for this post. So if that affects your opinion of me, I very much understand.

Anyway. Here I am again. Drafting.

[500 deleted words on how much I hate drafting, including profanity and 300 characters of keysmashing from banging my head against my desk]

Now that we’re through with that, here are three reasons why it might be a GOOD thing that my draft is going horribly.

  • Drafting is hard, and that’s a good thing because it means I am a better self-editor than I was the last time I drafted. I am seeing more of the problems up front, before I am 50,000 words into them.
  • Drafting is hard, and that’s a good thing because it means I am a better and more ambitious writer than I was the last time I drafted. I am attempting more complex things. I am trying something I haven’t done before. I’m challenging myself.
  • Drafting is hard, and that’s a good thing because nope can’t come up with a third this is the worst bye

Knowing Your Strengths vs. Laziness

As I wait for my agent to take a look at the latest draft of Wildergirls, I’ve been toying with the beginning of a new project. My process for the very beginning of things thus far seems to be that I get a sudden flash of the first 100 words, and then need to spend a while fleshing out the world.

I wrote the first 100 words of this nascent project and, as is instinctive for me, they came out in first person present. It’s the natural state of my voice, the POV in which I find it easiest to write. But since then I’ve been trying to rewrite them in third past.

Wildergirls is in first person present, and if the second book in that duology ever happens, that, too, will be in first person present. Is it laziness to start another project in that same POV? Or is it knowing my strengths and playing to them?

What do you guys think? Where do you draw the line between challenging yourself and making things harder without real cause?

This can apply to so many things besides POV – I have a fondness for teeth imagery, but relying too heavily on it definitely feels like laziness rather than playing to my strengths – but POV is probably where I struggle with it the most.

Whatever Works

I’m writing this at 4:15 AM, which has somehow become the end of my regular workday.

I’m in the middle of revising Wildergirls to send back to my agent, and I’ve found myself surprised at the way my process has changed. When I was writing the very first draft, I squirreled away tiny chunks of time while at my office job. Five minutes here, another fifteen there (if I was lucky), and whatever I could manage at the end of the day to get to my 1k a day goal. While writing the second draft, I became That Person – the one who sits at the same table in the same coffee shop for hours on end.

I thought I was a daytime writer. A desk writer. An “X words a day” writer. But now that I’m in revisions, I can’t seem to get my brain in gear until I’m settled in bed at 1:00 AM.

I’m lucky, in that my day to day life can absorb a drastic change in schedule like that. Not everyone is, and that can be incredibly frustrating. In the past I’ve found myself arriving at my most productive time of day just when I need to go to sleep. But these days I have that flexibility, and if you can, if you’re able, I say take what’s working and run with it. Work with your brain, not against it. Your routine will change a hundred times over, and that’s fine.

Sure, my old routine felt more Writerly. I ordered coffee refills, and I got on a first name basis with the cashier, and I figured out which table got the best light. But that’s not working for me anymore, and my current process might not look like what I pictured, but it gets the job done. It gets the words on the page. So I’ll work with it for now.

P.S. Please consider every instance of the word “work” in this post a pun. Like, I’m not exactly sure how they’re puns, but they’re puns.