Growth Scars


There are voices in my head.  This is a good thing.  It’s a good thing in two ways:

First, as I found out when I became a grownup writer and got to meet others of my species, I’m very lucky the voices are in my head and not outside, as full on, vivid hallucinations.  The number of my colleagues who get that or outright visions is perhaps the most disturbing thing I’ve learned about this profession.  Sure, it sounds cool like something out of movies or stories, but if you’ve ever lived so close inside your own head (like when I was a teen. More on that later) that something a character says startles you, and you send a tray of beverages flying all over several people at the pool, you are grateful you’re not also dodging people who are invisible to other people, and/or having their arguments interfere with your enjoyment of music.

After a con in which he listened to some of my colleagues older son was convinced this type of writing that we call “gateway writing” where you get the characters and much of the story for free was a form of schizophrenia.  He was relieved when I told him no, it’s just a seductive narrative strain of thoughts in my head, I’m fairly sure it’s part of being ADHD and my brain trying to entertain me.  So he says clinically speaking my case of writing isn’t as bad as many of my colleagues cases. I’m still — he says — a graphomaniac. You can’t get away from that. He’s young. I have so many ways of getting away from that.

Second: It’s much easier to remember who you are, to remain grounded in reality, to know which voices aren’t yours when they don’t also show you things or shout at you.

All of which is important because — I don’t know if this is a temptation to everyone else or just writer larvae — it was really easy to go inside and live in the stories in my head as a kid.

Does everyone do this? Or is it something that only hits those of us who are story-creative (there are other forms of creative) AND peculiarly broken?

I don’t know.  I know from age oh, five or six till eighteen I lived inside my head in a series of stories.  Sure, I also went to school and did the things that humans do. But the amazing thing is that I learned anything and did anything, since maybe 75% of my attention was inside.

At almost eighteen I made a conscious decision to give it up and start living in the world outside.  It was difficult. It hurt like hell.  It broke me places.  And then it healed and made me stronger.  I also started to actually grow and understand things, because I was no longer beguiled by the world within and using the world without only as a sort of inspiration mine.

Sure, I know, people who aren’t tempted by the words find other means of escape.  A lot of compulsive behavior, like counting or washing seems to be dulling the contact with the real world. So are other things which is why we have an “opiate crisis.”

Now it’s possible some of us are peculiarly more in danger of this. When we had younger son IQ tested (for reasons having nothing to do with wanting to brag, or whatever, but because he had sensory issues which apparently are organically linked to IQ one of two ways, either very high or very low and each of them calls for different handling) the psychologist surprised me by telling me some of us FEEL more than others.  I.e. some kids feel things that happen to them more strongly than others, which in turn means … they’re probably more susceptible to find ways to escape it.

But the thing is our society provides so many ways to escape it.  Sure, I probably had ancestors and ancestresses who had the same temptation I did (I suspect story telling runs in dad’s family) and some of them might even have managed to be as involved with the inner narrative as I was as a kid, but the truth is, probably not many.  It would require a certain level of comfort and “not having to handle dangerous things” that would probably be impossible until my generation unless of course very wealthy.

What do I mean? Well, when you cook mostly with wood or charcoal or — argh — spirit lamps, or you have to use sharp implements in your work, or wash clothes in a place where you can fall in and die and furthermore when your day is packed with hard work, it’s hard to go fully inside.  Or if you manage it, you’ll probably die. And if you don’t die you won’t get everything accomplished you need to and you and your family might die.

For instance yesterday as I was ripping up carpet in the dining room and killzeeing the floor, a task both grosser and more violent than you can imagine, my mind kept trying to tempt me away with a really strong narrative voice that goes to a story that’s been waiting maybe 30 years.

Which is why I listen to audio books while doing that stuff.  Particularly audio books I’ve listened to before. They’re just enough distraction not to allow the inner voice to take hold, and not to bring me to a stand still in the middle of the room, daydreaming and not doing what needed to be done.

It’s worse, of course, for other forms of addiction and escape.  I understand in many countries its always been normal, as far as we know to go through the world half-stoned.  Leaves and hashish and stuff.  And most of those parts of the world pay the price of such addiction and dulling in that they’ve stagnated for a long time. (Yeah, I am for drug legalization. Doesn’t mean I approve of drug use, particularly society wide.)

It is fashionable right now to talk about the opiate crisis, and also how it’s the result of several societal ills.

That’s Marxism talking.

No, seriously. I don’t care who you are, that’s Marxism talking.  The belief that some “societal ills” cause you to mitigate it with drugs, the belief that the “opiate of the masses” be it physical or mental is necessary to deal with the inequities of the capitalist system is a Marxist thought.

It is no such thing. Drugs or escape fantasies (I don’t think religion has anything to do with it, not for seriously religious people, though it’s possible that people of a narrative frame of mind who don’t have the concept of being storytellers might use religion as a framework for their escape.) or the myriad ways humans find to escape real life aren’t a result of the capitalist system (which is a way of saying Free Market which is a way of saying a byproduct of being human.)  They are a result of being human.

As the movie says: “Life is pain highness, anyone telling you different is trying to sell you something”

Even those people who are coddled and surrounded by everything they need — perhaps particularly those — live in pain.  Because to the extent that the world is not inside our heads and we don’t order it, things don’t always go according to what we want.  And weirdly for those who never have been denied being told no on very minor things is as much pain as oh, actual physical torture.  Which, yes, is why a particular brand of largely very privileged and coddled human beings think that you disagreeing with them is “actual aggression. Like violence.” And we need to stop disagreeing with them, or they’ll make us.  With physical attacks.

There is hope though. If instead of going inside, or taking drugs or trying to silence those whose thoughts/words/denial hurts you and feels like violence, you come out and engage with it, think about it, analyze it, eventually it gets better.

Oh, it hurts like hell, don’t get me wrong. In a way you have to die.  You have to move out of your current, comfortable state and break, and then rebuild again.

Imagine you had an exoskeleton (go with it.)  It keeps you safe. It’s comfortable inside. But what you don’t know is that it inhibits your growth and if you stay inside you will die early and unformed.  If you choose to break it, to grow past its limits, it hurts like hell. I mean, it’s part of you. But then it heals on the fractures and is stronger than before. And you’re bigger.

Does life stop being pain?  Oh, hell no. Life is pain. Big pain, small pain, or just the pain of sheer boredom.

And the temptations will always be there.  Opiates, coddling ideologies or even just vivid dreams.  And sometimes you can indulge, if you can control it. (No clue about the opiates. I don’t even like taking ibuprofen. But the day dreams? Well… I channel them into writing which is not the same at all as the vivid dream immersion, but sort of is. Or at least hits a bit of that spark.) But you always have to fight to control it.

And life is going to throw things that you that make you want to run and hide.


The escape is sweet and nice and easy. But outside in the harsh world of reality is the only way to grow and change and to truly experience life.  Accept no substitutes.

Oh, and that strong narrative voice that attacked me while cleaning? I probably should get the first two pages in so it doesn’t escape again. So I can finally write that novel that’s been waiting.

And then the house needs cleaning (the carpet thing took much longer than I expected so THAT didn’t happen) and … and I need to give another coat of KILLZ to the dining room floor (it’s not even our cats. It’s the people who lived here before and their cats.)  And then…. and then I can indulge in some narrative and writing.

Go forth. Live in the real world. It’s the breaking and the scars that lead to… bigger breaking and scars.  But without them you won’t actually live. You’ll leave no mark in the world.  It will be as though you’d never existed.

And what’s the point of that?


136 thoughts on “Growth Scars

  1. clinically speaking my case of writing isn’t as bad as many of my colleagues cases

    Under Obamacare those writers of stories against the narrative will be committed, for their own safety and happiness, and treated humanely to render them productive members of society. Or, failing that, simply to render them.

    They’re ill. It is the only humane thing to do.

  2. If you’re lucky, the voices in your head are generally benign (even when they’re nagging you to tell their story).

    If you’re not lucky, they can be nocuous and you should get out to hear other voices. 😦

  3. Yeah.

    Though, I’m not sure I was ever all the way inside my head, I am and was distracted by the amount of my attention that is spent inside. I’ve never been great at physical tasks, but I’m not sure how much of that is only because of inside focus.

  4. I lived in my head. As an only kid, it was particularly easy to do.

    I still do. When I’m not living in other people’s heads, thanks to having kids and books. It is the only way I can get through dull tasks like dishwashing.

    1. I was going to share my “trick” for washing dishes without being bored, then I realized I recognized it– it’s the same “trick” my mom uses for cutting fields.

      Basically, you try to be as absolutely efficient as possible; try to position the bowl so you are wiping the inside only once, but completely and effectively manage it. (I usually do forward then backwards, twisting my wrists so that it’s fully done.)

      The water in the rinse is as hot as I can stand it, let the plastic bowls (small kids!) soak to get every bit of oil off, etc.

      Explaining it sounds boring, but the formation of a “do this the best” thing is surprisingly engrossing.

      1. The best way for me to get through menial tasks is to pick a character and let them do it along with me in my head. The griping, sarcasm, and loud noises of breakage is terribly diverting, so long as it stays inside.

    2. And then people get annoyed at you and yell at you to break your concentration, because they resent the loss of attention. As if they had any right to it.

  5. For many among us the greatest threat of the world is boredom. Much of life consists of mind-numbing drudgery, performing the same dreary repetitive tasks again and again and again. Washing dishes, for example, is stultifying and essential lest your household succumb to food-borne illnesses. Maintaining your lawn, lest it provide purchase for mice, poisonous snakes and other vermin, is dull as dishwater but necessary as hell. Simply washing oneself on a regular basis is critical to good health but entertaining to only a peculiar few.

    Most of life consists of just one dull thing after another. But if you cut corners or try to escape the doing it can produce highly unsatisfactory results.

    1. “How do you think of [non-standard reaction to common thing]?”


      “How do you even notice, and then mock, the lyrics on the P.A.?”

      Spare cycles gotta do something…

      No voices, as such, but weird things still happen. Generally some people get songs stuck in the mind, ‘earworms’.. Me? I tend to get chemical, or worse, pharmaceutical, names jammed… Explaining the song lyrics or such is easy compared to to explaining some of those. “Diethylstilbestrol?!?”

      1. Asimov wrote an article about gettng an earworm of some chemical compound, pronounced to the tune of “The Irish Washerwoman.”

        Fortunately, I’m not familiar with that tune…

            1. Para-Dimethyaminobenzaldehyde was indeed the compound mentioned in the Asimov anecdote. If I’m remembering correctly, Young Student Asimov was mispronouncing the name, whereupon his professor/TA sang it to the tune.

              1. I learned the Asimov story (and the song) many years ago, and had two interesting experiences singing it in public.
                First, to a troupe of college drama students, while congratulating them on their production of a very difficult play involving a romance between an English soldier and an Irish lass in the 19th century, presented AS IF each were speaking their own languages (of course, the Irishwoman was speaking English for our benefit), but their reactions at hearing something “other” were excellently done. At this particular college (my alma mater, in fact), drama was an elective, and a large number of the cast were actually STEM majors.
                They all laughed at the punchline.
                The next time, I sang it for a group of genuine Irish musicians (no chemists among them), and they just looked dumbfounded at the end; I found out later that the tune we call “The Irish Washerwoman” goes by a totally different name in Eire, and is Welsh in origin to boot.
                Oh, and the punchline is this:
                In order to keep the compound’s name in his head until the exam, Asimov sings the tune while waiting in the Dean’s office for a meeting of some kind. After a few moments of listening spell-bound, the red-headed secretary throws up her hands and screams: “Glory be! An’ ya know it in the original Gaelic!”

        1. I keep thinking I should try to memorize the lyrics to Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”, sung to “I am the Model of a Modern Major General”.

          It can get pretty boring mowing the fields or doing the brute-force parts of construction. (Digging ditches and running wire through conduit qualify…) I’ll try to sing various TL songs, but lately I’ve been retrieving stuff from That Was The Year That Was, which I do not have in my collection. “Elements” is, and mutilating Gilbert and Sullivan is a worthwhile pastime. 🙂

          1. I used to teach computer programming in a small college. At one point, to keep the students from getting too bored (this was in the core-and-keypunch days), I would sing Lehrer’s “New Math,” for the sole purpose of delivering the line, “Of course, the book I got this out of wants you to do it in Base 8, which is just like Base 10, if you are missing two fingers.”
            Usually I would get a couple of laughs, but it was always balanced by the students who wanted me to slow down so they could take notes.

            1. Damn, I remember some of the patter and side comments. “Everybody who got one can stay and clean the erasers.”

            2. I’ve occasionally gotten Such A Look for an almost-right (I am SURE I skip a few verses, but the gist IS there) version of So Long Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb.

              1. Good song. 🙂

                When I had a regular 9-5 job, my morning shower included a rendition of “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. Tractor work seems to require “In Old Mexico” or “Alma”.

                Right now, “MLF Lullaby” is cluttering my brain.

    2. Simply washing oneself on a regular basis is critical to good health but entertaining to only a peculiar few.

      I can see how it would be more of a chore before the invention of heated indoor plumbing, but are you saying that there are people who don’t take enjoyment from being under a lovely (controlled) cascade of hot water? That they don’t luxuriate in the delicate scent of the soap, rising on the steam? Etc, etc…

      Such dark lives they must lead!

      *cue dramatic and totally serious nodding of the head, with a few genteel tears of pity gathering at the corners of the eyes, only to be delicately dabbed away with a lace handkerchief.*

      1. The thought had not been in my mind when I first made that comment but it now occurs to me that (reportedly) there are men who pay good money to visit clubs in which the featured entertainment is watching women shower. Shower slowly, sensuously and thoroughly.

        Men are peculiar.

        N.B., no portion of this comment should be taken as endorsement of the idea that there are but two sexes. This writer is entirely open-minded on the number of sexes of the human race and even whether there properly is such a thing as a human race. In brief: I don’t want to hear about it and absolutely don’t want to talk about it.

  6. I’ve done this “story in my head” thing since I was small. A LOT less now than then. Although I do have a long commute, but no worries, I’m VERY careful to make sure I have enough brain-cycles in the real world to be safe and not crash. 🙂

    I’ve often wished I had a way of recording, or better yet doing voice to text, in my car that would allow me to tell the stories as they happen in my head so I can later go back and either directly edit them into something readable, or at least evaluate the ideas/scenes/etc. for use later. Of course, whatever solution would have to be easy enough so that I don’t crash while setting it up. I also worry if I did that my characters would end up being Mary Sues (not that I would care to guarantee that they aren’t already).

    1. For this, I keep a teeny digital recorder with me. It is terribly handy in the car or in bed when you don’t want to turn on a light and search for pen and paper. Voice to text can be done by most smart phones these days, so that may be a better way to go, but I have yet to make the transition.

  7. There have been a couple of authors who have said they wrote what a character dictated to them. I used to always think they were speaking figuratively. Now, not so sure. For writers that took the self destruction way out of life, I suspect that for many of them, those voices and visions were real enough to them in “A Beautiful Mind” sort of way. One wonders what Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, or Edgar Allen Poe saw or heard in their minds.

    There’s only one voice in my head, and it’s mine. Dialogs and conversations are all me talking to me pretending to be someone or something else, but both sides speaking with my voice, and all too often from the same POV. Visualizations are pure flights of imagination. No actual perception of changes of terrain occur. Spaceship interiors have even less tangibility than things on the boob tube. (Can we even call it a boob tube anymore when it’s a flat screen powered by solid state circuits?)

    If your inner voice is strong enough to bring you to a stand still in the middle of the room, daydreaming and not doing what needed to be done unless you have something playing in the background to distract you; is it possible for you to verbalize what the inner voices are saying so you could dictate the stories at the same time you’re working? (Maybe not the best idea when working with power tools or construction vehicles.)

    I’m also pro-drug legalization. ALL drugs. It’s not government or society’s job to make you even more miserable than you already are (otherwise, you wouldn’t be taking the drugs.) Prescriptions should be only instruction on how and how much to take of the drugs doctors say you need to have. Put the cops after people committing actual crimes: driving under the influence (of whatever), assault, robbery (to feed their addiction), neglect (of their children (if any). IF the FDA still needs a job, limit them to certifying the quality of any drugs produced.

    ” It’s the people who lived here before …” You’re kidding? They peed on the floors too?

    1. The FDA’s job should be to certify that a drug does what it is claimed to do, as well as the fact that side-effects are verified. If Company A says that the drug has extreme flatulence as a side-effect, then the person taking it can’t complain when they gas their dog to an inch of its life. However if Company B does not say extreme flatulence is a side-effect, and that dog does die, well, the FDA gets to have some fun with the lawsuits. (especially if Company B knew, but didn’t report it.)

      1. I’m very anti-drug-legalization– precisely because of free choice issues– but I too want the FDA to be a certification, not a required approval.

        Result is most insurance programs wouldn’t cover drugs…but some folks would buy them anyways, with a doctor as a gate-keeper.

        1. Aesop at Reconteur Report is emphatically anti-drug. Part of his viewpoint is that of an ER nurse; before legalization, he had one or two THC overdoses a decade. Now, it’s once a night, and that’s consuming resources (staff time, among others) that would be far better used for people who weren’t deliberately putting themselves at risk.

          I like his stance, not quite sure of his solutions, but they’re tempting.

          1. Alright, I’ve heard/read the claims that marijuana/THC doesn’t have an overdose issue as such. However, too much of anything (including water, and even oxygen – ask a diver) can be an issue… so… what, dare I ask, happens when the THC amount is not merely detectable but “OMG, WTH?”

            1. I’ve read the same thing. The question is, is the overdose from drug THC, or the overdose from smoked or ingested Marijuana?

              I work in a hospital. We have an Emergency Department; so I get the point of view of the ER staff. They want to save everyone, and prevent everyone from causing harm to themselves and others. The point that most of them do NOT get, is the prevention part is pure tyranny; the destruction of others liberty and personal freedom just to make them comfortable and not force them to make the decision to use resources to save the otherwise terminally stupid.

              1. I see the ER personnel point: is it better to save Joe Mainline from his 4th OD, or Little Johnny who fell from a tree and hit his head. In a small hospital ER (like where I live), the available resources will mean one of them is likely to have to wait a long time.

                (One commenter on Raconteur Report suggested for succeeding ODs, tattooing ‘D’, then ‘N’, then ‘R’ on the patient’s chest. At the fourth call, the Do Not Resuscitate order is honored. It’s tempting.)

              2. That’s “nice”. [Sarcastic Grin]

                People may have the “right” to send themselves into the gutter but as far as I’m concerned if somebody sends themselves into the gutter, public money should NOT be used to “help” them.

                If you want to spend your money to “help” them, that’s your right.

                As far as I’m concerned there will be a major cost to society if people like you win your crusade against the so-called War On Drugs and I’m not sure that you’ll be willing to spend your money to help the victims of your “victory”.

                By the way, I was up all night reading the latest Safehold novel and haven’t had enough coffee.

                1. Supplying cops with an opiate antagonist does NOT decrease the number of OD deaths, but DOES increase the extent of opiate related crime

                  1. That probably has more to do with most of the current OD deaths being a “dropped dead before THEY knew it” type, from…fetynil, I think it’s spelled?

                  2. $SPOUSE thinks that they should stop supplying Narcan to the police. Can’t say I disagree. “Think of it as evolution in action.”

                    FWIW, the spelling is “fentanyl”.

                    1. I actually want the anti-OD to be around as much as possible– because fentanyl is a really effective murder weapon. The fatal dose is tiny.

                      Thank you for spelling, I’ll add it to spellcheck again and not be so lazy; we’re down with a cold from heck here. (And I’m not sleeping much, since my kids all have it…and those two dead kids with the border patrol had “nasty cold, make sure it isn’t the flu” for symptoms, other than nobody here has a high fever yet.)

            2. Does anybody truly thin the MSM reports on the safety of pot are reliable? That is not to say the critics are correct, it is to say we are being fed a big lie. Perhaps they are hot for a return to the good old days of cigarette advertising?

              Contrary argument on the “harmlessness” of THC:

              ‘Reefer Madness’ not so mad after all, anti-pot author warns
              Even primitive doctors in ancient China knew that something didn’t smell right with marijuana.

              The “Pen-ts’ao Ching,” a guide to herbal medicine published some 2,000 years ago, warned that excessive cannabis consumption might lead to “seeing devils.” Chinese doctors around the same time believed that the drug could cause violence and criminal behavior.

              These days, few of us have similar worries. As marijuana continues its seemingly inevitable march to legalization in all 50 states, most Americans simply accept that it’s relatively harmless.

              But what if it’s not?

              The case for caution is laid out in “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” (Free Press), by Alex Berenson, a reporter and novelist who lives in upstate New York.

              The book dives into decades of scientific research — much of which, for whatever reason, has been overlooked — to make the case that smoking pot can damage more than just a bag of Doritos.

              Berenson says marijuana’s reputation has been successfully burnished by pro-pot groups, aided by certain media outlets.

              “The cannabis-advocacy community, including both nonprofit policy groups and for-profit companies that run dispensaries, shout ‘Reefer Madness’ at anyone who dares to discuss the science around the issue,” the author tells The Post, referencing the hysterical 1936 propaganda film that oversold pot’s dangers. “Journalists at elite news organizations like The Washington Post have helped by becoming more or less open advocates for legalization.”


              [I]nhale eight myths that “Tell Your Children” explodes.

              1. Pot never killed anyone. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database shows that more than 1,000 people “who died between 1999 and 2016 had cannabis or cannabinoids — and no other drugs — listed on their [death] certificates as a secondary cause of death by poisoning,” Berenson writes. That’s the traditional method of counting fatal overdoses. In the UK, 14 passed away between 2014 and 2016. “Those figures are a fraction of those who died from opiates,” he writes. “But they should put to rest the canard that marijuana has never killed anyone.”

              2. Weed is medicine.

              3. It’s not a gateway drug.

              4. It’s not addictive.

              5. Legalization will end the black market.

              6. Legalization will fill the state’s coffers with tax revenue.

              7. Pot is safe because it comes from the ground.

              8. Our jails are overflowing with nonviolent pot offenders. “I was surprised how few people are actually in prison for marijuana-related crimes,” Berenson says.

              “Many people are arrested for cannabis possession, but almost no one serves time for it.”

              A 2005 paper from Sentencing Project, an advocacy group looking to address the racial disparities in the justice system, found that fewer than 28,000 people in 2003 were incarcerated for marijuana in state and federal facilities. Another 4,600 were locked up in county jails, for a total of about 32,500 out of 2.1 million prisoners nationally.

              1. N.B., this is not to argue pot ought be kept illegal, it is intended to ask whether Pot Legalization is the “medical” version of AGW.

              2. The way things have been going, I only just barely trust even local media to correctly report amounts of snowfall – and that only because people can and do go out into their backyards with a yardstick and check for themselves.

                “Trust, but verify”? Not even. “Verify before at all considering trusting” is more like it. As some have said here, if you’ve witness something, and witnessed the reporting of it, well… honesty is what reporting lacks. And as reporters have faded into history and been replaced with mere “journalists” it’s only gotten worse.

      2. I’m not sure I want the FDA having to approve that a drug works, unless they change the process somewhat. A family friend is one of the pioneers in multi-drug chemo, and one of his complaints about the FDA approval process was that a unless a drug could be shown to be effective by itself FDA wouldn’t approve it, so it wasn’t available for use in a multi-drug treatment where it would be effective.

        1. I’d prefer the FDA just say, “The FDA has not tested this drug for efficacity or quality control. Use at your own risk.”

          1. I’d be fine with that. I’d even be fine with requiring QC checks and basic safety testing (i.e. does not instantly kill, does not kill with a few weeks of treatment, etc.) but the current situation may be hindering as much or more than it is helping.

    2. I think the idea of the characters dictating to the authors is a relatively common idea, especially among certain kinds of character driven authors. I’ve often joked about my characters beating me up and making me write their stories the way they want. Sometimes it kinda feels like that. I like my characters to feel real (in a SF/F context) so I let my imagination free to do that. However, I don’t start thinking of them as actual “real” people and I’ve never seen one roam free outside of my head (so far anyway).

      The worst I’ve gotten about it was when a character kicked me awake in a dream once, which startled me awake in the “real world”. I think that was just my brain working on the story while I was sleeping and it having found the resolution to a plot problem I was having at the time. I had been worrying about the problem when I went to sleep.

      1. I have a stalled story* in which one of the characters refuses to wear clothes. While I agree with her about why it would out of character for her to wear clothes, I had planned to skim over that part and just not mention it (and hope readers wouldn’t notice). Said character had other plans though and showed up to her first scene completely naked, and was summarily gifted (by the Big Bad, trying to cause problems) to an already established character. A boy. Who is completely freaked out by the idea of a naked girl. Hilarity ensues. The boy’s older sister and her friends keep on making the girl put clothes on, then as soon as they turn their backs, whoop off the clothes go. And they always seem to return just when it looks like he’s taking advantage (which he isn’t, of course, because he never wanted to own anyone in the first place, let alone one of her kind, but can’t seem to get rid of her).

        *not stalled because of this thing, Stalled because I didn’t do enough planning, so I’m stuck as to how the characters are going to get from A to B.

          1. It’s more of a, I have a good start on the story, and I know what the end of the story needs to be. I just haven’t figured out how to get the characters past the middle, where they discover “what’s really going on” and be where they need to be when the story ends (so they kept running around in circles, which doesn’t make a good read).

            I’ll get back to that story eventually I think, the characters are just too fun to forget about. Hopefully by then I’ll figure out the middle part.

          2. Or worse, the characters know bad things will happen to them if they go to B. 😈

      2. It’s frustrating as hell when a new character shows up out of nowhere and refuses to be sidelined or kept a minor character. Even threatening to run one over with a ground-effect vehicle had little impact. He swore he would just carry on the investigation from his hospital bed Bone Collector style. I had to remind him quite forcefully that he was not the main character, was not going to become the main character, and if he did not get with the program and start supporting the main character he was in for a world of hurt.

        1. Tell him if he helps out the main character, then he’ll be the main character in another story. 😉

          1. I finally let him shoot the bad guy. It was the only way to get him to cooperate.

          1. The problem I see with being a dull side character – or worse a background extra! – is that one tends to be part of the “several people” in lines like “Suddenly, the wall exploded inward, instantly kiliing several people and crushing many more under the debris.”

            1. If you are fortunate you might just be the plucky comic relief.

              If you are a dull side character – or even a background extra – it is unlikely you will be killed to prove that the author is SERIOUS. This is why it is important to KNOW YOUR AUTHOR!! For example, if you’re in a GRRM tale it is unlikely anything will save you.

        2. I’ve got a work in progress where that character let me kill him, and even does not literally haunt the story — but does so figuratively.

      3. I wonder if there’s an unexpurgated version of “A Few Good Men” that includes all of Luce’s asides? Or do I need to skip over a few universes to where that Sarah Hoyt includes all the cursing, swearing, and randy tales you’d hear from a dock working fishwife? 😉

    3. Only once have I hallucinated a character. However, since I probably was not entirely what the DSM calls sane between ages 13-18, I have no desire to go back down that escapism road. I tend to see scenes in my mind’s eye, but never while I’m at Day Job. I absolutely cannot zone out at Day Job. The students are too smart.

      1. Oddly enough, when I get sick I tend towards some pretty extreme fever spikes that cause some pretty gnarly hallucinations (never spike a really high fever in a house where one person collects wolf statues, and the other person collects Angel statues… just saying). But none of those hallucinations have featured any of my characters.

        1. I once bought a 4-foot high (at least) Sylvester (the cat) plush toy thingie that was going for cheap at a store closeout, since someone I knew was a huge fan of Sylvester. I will say that even stone-cold sober and not running any fever at all, waking up to a GIANT CAT towering over your bed is not a thing for lowering or maintaining a slow pulse rate. And, yes, I placed it there my own self. Let’s just say I woke up a bit faster than usual one morning.

      2. I probably was not entirely what the DSM calls sane between ages 13-18

        I do not believe the DSM has a a definition for sane which covers girls between ages 13-18, just a variety of “crazies.”

        1. I recall Bob Hoskins (sp) saying that playing the part in Who Framed Roger Rabbit took him imagining the characters so often he started to hallucinate, seeing the various characters in everyday life, even after finishing the movie.

      3. My urge to stop and investigate “shiny” objects on the ground, imaginary or otherwise, has gotten infinitely worse since I started playing MMORPs.

        1. When I started playing Minecraft, I started imagining everything (trees, buildings etc.) as they would look if built in Minecraft. But that wasn’t exactly hallucination, it was more “imagination gone wild”, and was actually pretty fun. 🙂

          Yes, I have been, and always will be, a Minecraft nerd.

          1. Never did anything with / in Minecraft, but I was impressed to hear of the person who managed to build an entire 6502 (equivalent) within it.


            Once upon a time, ages ago when the Apple //e was still shiny and new and Print Shop was pricey (and cracked copies had yet to flood the area), I wanted to make the “greeting cards” on/from a single sheet of paper as it allowed. This would require either careful re-feeding of a page through a printer (Epson MX-80 being the Standard Printer[1][2] of the time) or some re-doing of the image. Well, fiddling with paper feeding on an MX-80 is a pain, so…

            So… I spent a morning or so discovering the Apple 2 series “high resolution” screen was NOT a simple memory map, but a triad of octets of octets for lines, displaying 7 bits of each byte. I managed to come up with a program that would take an image on one hi-res screen and move to the other hi-res screen space.. upside down… eventually. Even with a little machine code subroutine for the bit flipping, it had a 15 minute runtime.

            A few years later I returned to the problem, just because it seemed interesting and I was curious. I moved all the AppleSoft code into ML (assembler? What’s that?) and dropped the runtime to a minute or so. I tweaked a few things there and dropped the runtime to about 5 seconds. This, of course, was when $SISTAUR had to complain (perhaps jokingly) about it being slow. After a while, I realized the crude ML subroutine of the first attempt was still doing the 7-bit flipping and was making external memory calls. Hrmm. While I was used to the 1802 (Yes, really) and the 6502 felt register-starved, eventually there was discoveredrealized a way to flip the bits ALL within the CPU. Final runtime: about a second.

            “Everyone’s assignment for this part of the course is… $MACHINE_CODE_PROBLEM. Except Orvan. Orvan, don’t help. Go read something.”

            [1] It amused me greatly to see some book about the Apple 2 series of computers (one NOT put out by Apple Computer) with a photo of “A typical Apple 2 system” which showed the Apple computer, assorted Apple branded accessories… and an Epson printer.

            [2] The MX-80 was, if not ubiquitous, Very Close. There were also references to the FX-80, which was a slightly fancier more advance (or at least more expensive) version. Reality being.. itself.. at me/us.. we had the rarely mentioned intermediate, the RX-80.

            1. I wrote a triple-buffering routine in apple basic to so a high-res graphics side-scroller. it was almost playable when using one of the basic compilers available at the time.

      4. Dunno if it this counts as a hallucination, but I once fever-dreamed the opening chapter of a murder mystery from the first-person POV of the protagonist.

    4. I’m with the late Dr. Pournelle on this. It should be legal to sell snake oil, and the only function of the FDA in that process would be to make sure it contains oil made from real snakes (or else is properly labeled “artificial snake oil” or “imitation snake oil” or whatever).

      The FDA could also issue advisories if they liked (“We think this stuff doesn’t work and might actually hurt you.”) but they should not be allowed to stop the sale.

      1. Note:
        I use to think there was an effective guardian principle involved– and then taking a person’s own stem cells, culturing them, and re-introducing the result was classified as a “drug,” rather than a “therapy.”

        It might be dumb. It might not work. But for heaven’s sake, really?

        1. ONE provision: that the user can NOT sue except in the most extreme circumstances.

          Use at your own risk must be adhered to.

    5. “I know that for months I had been absolutely barren of ideas, completely unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen – or rather off my typewriter – almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing. When I deliberately tried to write something else, I couldn’t do it.”

      Robert E. Howard on the birth of Conan.

      1. At least 2 other authors whose series I follow, I also follow the Facebook fan group. Many times someone will ask about “what about … when was this story told …” In all cases it is eluding to pre series occurrence, kind of a proof that the series main characters didn’t just spring in to being for the series, that they have a past. The answer has always been, from the author, “… hasn’t told me about that, just mentioned it in passing …”

    6. “There have been a couple of authors who have said they wrote what a character dictated to them. ”
      Raises hand.
      I have had the unnerving experience of suddenly following conversations between characters to the point of exclaiming, “So that’s what’s been going on!” (or realizations to that effect).
      Somewhat of an hyperactive character-driven plotting mode, I’m afraid.
      IIRC, Mozart is said to have claimed that he only wrote the music he was given in his head, but I don’t know if that’s true or apocryphal.

      1. Aye, some drugs should be legal but still prescription only. Some perhaps ought be truly illegal – stuff that genuinely belongs on Schedule 1. And then.. there’s stuff that might be effective, might be bilge, but if Joe Schmoe wants to give it try… well, it’s not guaranteed anything, but doesn’t likely to screw up things for others. Mr. Schmoe might be a fool, but so what? However, yeah, there are Very Sound Reasons* for not treating, say, chloramphenicol like jelly beans.

        * Aplastic anemia, anyone? “A whole lot of No Fun” is an understatement.

        1. My problem with Schedule 1 is that drugs are put on schedule 1 through a political process, not necessarily a scientific/medical one. Schedule 1 basically says the drug has NO Medical uses, and a high potential for abuse.

          I’ve known someone who was on a drug trial testing a new drug that completely changed her life, only to have politicians decide to classify it as a schedule 1 drug (mostly because some sensationalist media stories made it sound scary). The drug trial was almost shut down, but the drug company’s lawyers managed to save it. Good thing too, because we had been looking for less-than-legal ways of procuring the drug if the trial was shut down and we were no longer able to get it for her legally. Not sure where it all stands now though because me and that person have parted ways.

    7. I waffle about antibiotics due to the likelihood of resistant strains developing if misused. Also, I would get rid of the FDA entirely and let UL certify safety as they do for most other things.

  8. Actually, Marxism is the societal ill that they are taking the drugs to escape, they just don’t realize / accept it. The nihilism that Marxism and other communist/socialist ideologies promotes drive a kind of depression that drugs help people escape, the idea that a change of perspective might work better is something they have been indoctrinated to refute.

    1. There’s the also horrific physical discomfort of living in a Worker’s Paradise, from the cramped, ill furnished, poorly maintained cement boxes of Worker’s Housing, to the poorly made clothing, and to the bad and inadequate food, the cheap and uncomfortable clothing, and so on.
      Booze and dope won’t make that go away, but it can at least numb you to the unpleasant reality.

    2. That seems like a bit of an oversimplification, considering that a lot of these societies aren’t Marxist to begin with. (See: Afghanistan, Yemen.)

      1. That’s the amazing thing about Scientific Socialism- it can turn a developed First World nation into a failing, “developing” Third World nation in no time at all! Just look at Venezuela.

        1. Setting: Deep into a long-forgotten section of a/the Labyrinth.

          What: A door. With a sign: [SOCIALIST UTOPIA]

          The door is not locked… but it’s much harder to open from the other side. Perhaps impossible. It remains closed. Some traps might be deadly. Some are even worse. This one.

          1. Unfortunately, Socialist Utopia doors are usually wide open, inviting everyone in. You only notice the door is one way AFTER you’ve walked through it.

              1. What came to my mind was more like the gates to the stockyards , but I can understand your flinching from that particular image.

      2. Funny story. Yemen WAS Marxist, or at least bits of it were, before “unification”. That’s what their previous civil war was about.

        The Islamic Revolution in Iran was also supposed to be socialist in nature, or at least “socialism with Islamic characteristics” a la China. Still has that Stalinist “Revolutionary Guard Corps” thING going on

  9. Yes. Have had a basic story theme in my head for as long as I can remember. But, it never goes anywhere, nor can I develop it into anything written. It is something that crops up when nothing else is going on. Anything else knocks it out.

    One thing I do, as observed by others, is I get can absorbed to the exclusion of anything else. Some would call it “zoning out”, without drugs. Programming it was really bad …

    1. I get can absorbed to the exclusion of anything else

      This is something of a focused/hypnotic state. Upon first reading of the thing in some text on hypnotism, my reaction was… this has to be (externally) induced for some people?

  10. Does everyone do this? Or is it something that only hits those of us who are story-creative (there are other forms of creative) AND peculiarly broken?

    I’m no good at stories (yet!) and I don’t think I’m broken, so nope, not just you.

    1. Oh, and a note?

      I’m totally gleeing over here because I’ve wanted to ask that question since about the time I pulled my mind out of the shiny stories far enough to realize that I wasn’t sure if anybody else did it. Heck, I still have fun story bits when I go for a walk, or on long lonely drives, or just when bored. Fix-it Fic is a common example– “this was fun, but not quite right…how could it be fixed?”

      Now I know that at least somebody else does it!

      1. Ever been driving somewhere, alone, and it’s long trip (on hour or more) and start wondering… if G. Washington ( or B. Franklin… or…) were in the passenger seat… how would you explain the journey (at 65+ mph) to him?

        1. All…The…Time…
          Oddly enough, it is usually one of two fictional characters. Either Lord Toranaga from Shogun, or Lord Darcy from, well, Lord Darcy. I don’t know why, it just is those two characters normally.

        2. “if G. Washington ( or B. Franklin… or…) were in the passenger seat… how would you explain the journey (at 65+ mph) to him?”

          Or transported into the past where horses are a critical necessity. When most are considered, if not poor, lower class for not having immediate access to one. Explain how horses now vary from an expensive luxury to a pest on the same land.

          Or respond to Lewis & Clark “How long to cross the continent?” with “Days to a week by ground. A few hours by air.”

          1. “I’ll try to explain the moving images later, for now, think of it as a peculiar play, just sit back, relax and watch.”

            *Cannonball Run* starts…

        3. Do it with characters from books ALL THE TIME. Regency romances, WEB Griffin books, the folks in the 1632 series…

  11. But…but…an acquaintance of mind says that capitalism IS the source!
    And I quote: “Then I started thinking about the conversation I had with another friend about mental health work, and how so much of it is now ‘late-stage capitalism problem’ focused, i/e most of your clients are going to relapse, reoffend, or otherwise not succeed due to huge societal problems. In both cases, late stage capitalism is taking away the ability to do good on a small scale, because you are either serving a testing paradigm that is focused on testing as an economic indicator or trying to put a band-aid on problems that are so hugely systemic and are not alleviated by any safety nets. And it makes me very sad….”
    See? it’s society’s fault! Capitalism is bad! Boo!

    1. In Capitalist system everybody wealthy enough to have “First World Problems” while in Communist State everybody is focused on survival serving the State and have no time for minor personal problems.

      1. Most First World Socialist think they’ll be the Nomenklatura of the new state, and the ones to receive the good part of the loot.

        1. > Most First World Socialist think they’ll be the Nomenklatura of the new state

          Yes. No matter that their ilk has always been the first group loaded on the trains to the gulag/”reeducation camp”. This time it’ll be different. This time Marxism is going to work. You’ll see.

          The only thing that would actually be different would be this time it would be a lot easier to unperson them by photoshopping them out of pictures and erasing any mention of their name from the Internet.

          > Idiots.


          1. It would be nice if they could go away somewhere else, and work out their little cargo cult games themselves. But noooo, everyone else hast to play along, whether you want to or not.

            1. Well yes, wrecker. The only way to make the system work is for everyone to play along.

              That this is taken as evidence that the system is good rather than unworkable is one of the great mysteries of our time.

            2. They’ve conclusively proven they’re incapable of managing a government and economy on their own; they can only exist as parasites on a functioning society.

              Unfortunately, they tend to kill that society in the end…

            3. except they don’t get… we’re the airplanes delivering boxes to the cargo cults all over Europe.

  12. There is a whole spectrum. People who are verbal in certain ways tend to have to dictate or type or write down a story in order to compose it. Some visual people see stuff, others have to draw it. Certain kinds of audial people hear songs, others have to work them out. Some people love detailed outlines.

    Nothing superior or inferior, nothing but different.

    1. I can chat or argue or write factual stuff on the keyboard at 90+ WPM. Try to invent something, and my fingers lock up just before my brain does. I can only write fiction longhand, to my immense annoyance.

      1. I either do that… or my brain races so far ahead that I’m bored with it all before my fingers can catch up.

        There are good reasons why I don’t write fiction.

  13. > Which is why I listen to audio books while doing that stuff. Particularly audio books I’ve listened to before. They’re just enough distraction not to allow the inner voice to take hold

    This is fascinating to me. I’ve never been able to listen to audio books, or podcasts, or anything else of that nature unless I have absolutely no other cognitive load going on, so I largely don’t do those things (music is okay, though). Reading, on the other hand, I can do just about anywhere, unlike some people who need to be in a quiet room to read. Boiler factory, major rail line, main approach to LAX, it doesn’t matter. I can carry on a conversation while reading, no problem (I may get annoyed after a while, if the person keeps interrupting me, but in general it doesn’t cause me to lose my train of thought).

    I suspect this is related to the situation observed by Richard Feynman where one of his college classmates could not count mentally while reading, and another one could not count mentally while talking.

    It turned out that the one was counting by visualizing numbers on a tape going by, while the other was counting by imagining the sounds. The guy who was “reading” the numbers couldn’t read at the same time, while the one who was “hearing” the sounds couldn’t talk at the same time.

    I wonder if one would observe a difference in this between people who grew up in the heydey of radio drama and those who came afterward (sort of like the “critical period” for learning a language).

    1. I also cannot listen to music or movies or anything while doing intellectual tasks.
      “It turned out that the one was counting by visualizing numbers on a tape going by,”
      Number Three Son had a hard time in first grade learning to spell, which persisted for years. He could get 9 words on the list, but when he added the 10th, all of them went away.
      Years later we learned that he was watching a movie in his head for every word he read, and the band-width got too small.
      He grew up to be a bladesmith / jewelry artisan.
      Curiously, I had a friend who was worried about her grandson, otherwise very smart, having difficulty with spelling.
      I asked him if he saw movies in his head, and he was flabbergasted that I had guessed.
      The solution for both was to STOP before they got overloaded with pictures; wait until the learned words “settled” and then continue.
      N3S is a voracious reader now, but can’t spell his own name without me or spell-check close at hand.

      1. I once had two cassette mix-tapes for myself. For the “mindless” physical work, or not-quite-napping rest & relaxation there was the tape with vocals. For anything demanding mental focus, non-vocals. I had to think over which tape I would have dubbed Pennsylvania 6-5000 onto. I suspect I played it safe and called it ‘vocal’ despite the simplicity.

  14. Sarah, it’s a matter of perspective: Somewhere out there on the other end of your voices is a perfectly nice being who was scared to hell by the sound of nonexistent glassware crashing to the tiles…

  15. I have dreams that advance the plot of stories that I am reading. When I wake up I need to spend a bit of time figuring out just where the “real” story ended and my dream took over. I also dream of musical compositions, and I’m quite average musically.

    1. Oliver Sacks has an interesting book, “Musicophilia,” about people who suffer some sort of neurological trauma and begin writing music obsessively, even if they never had any interest or talent previously.

  16. One of the things that took some of the enjoyment out of Spider Robinson’s work for me was his constant theme in a lot of them that “What horrible world have we created that creative people have to drug themselves to live in it?”

    Pissed me off no end. First time I ran into it was annoying, second time I was saying “Hey, asshat, howzabout “What the hell is wrong with creative people that they succeed in what they do, and then try to destroy themselves?” Never thought of it as a Marxist thing, but looking back on some of his “What’s yours actually belongs to the whole/the collective/whatever” in some of them, it fits.

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