A bit rusty, like my patience.
Twice in my life, I have sat in a room full of adults who write and heard someone pose this question:
“Does anyone else feel schizophrenic when they write?”
No. And get a dictionary, Lunkhead.
SIDEBAR: I know, not the word “crazy” but listen, by the time I get to “S” it’s gonna be anybody’s guess what I’ll be thinking about. Plus, the number one piece of advice I repeatedly give my writing students is to "Be specific"--because precision matters. This process requires painting a picture with words, so let us see the exact tree, truck, or instrument of tremendous suffering that has destroyed lives. Mince garlic, not words, for the love of the Muse.
Pet Peeve #1 also turns out to be Losing Battle #1: Schizophrenia, according to my good friends at the Oxford Dictionary online, is not only “a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation” but in general use is “a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements."
People have used this word for years when referring to the weather, the state of the economy, what have you. But writers using the term this way—suggesting that the difficulty one experiences racking their brains searching for le mot juste is akin to the devastation of a mind lost to psychosis—is a disgrace. One of my heroes, psychiatrist Fred Frese (who has schizophrenia), has spent years battling stigma and discusses the danger of using derogatory names to describe those dealing with a mental illness. I digress.
I could measure my disappoint on a Richter scale each time the question was asked. I spoke up the first time, and the second time (during a master class, twenty years after the first incident), I held my breath and said nothing. Language changes, and meanings morph with time; no one uses terrific to mean ‘causing terror’ any more. But this was carelessness to a callous degree by peeps who believed words matter. I can guarantee even drunk out of your mind or caffeinated out of your wits, it is impossible to “feel schizophrenic.” Have a terrific drug trip where you are assaulted non-stop by aggressive voices telling you to harm yourself (or others) and then maybe we’ll talk.
And now look, I’ve resorted to a negative stereotype to make a point.
Isn’t there something better I could be doing with my time than checking every online dictionary in computer Christendom? And there is right here, courtesy Of Monsters and Men.