If you have any of these warning signs, you are one of the many people afflicted with WA –
- an unusually and unnecessarily large collection of writing instruments.
an over abundant supply of paper, notebooks, journals, etc..
overflowing bookshelves, the compulsion to buy books even when you have unread stacks of them next to your bed, couch, and kitchen table.
an overwhelming compulsion to blog, read blogs, and comment on blogs.
WA is a newly recognized and widespread epidemic of addiction affecting people around the globe. This affliction has silently consumed lives for centuries, some may argue it is a harmless addiction, though many have been known to suffer from co-morbid conditions such as alcohol and caffeine abuse.
Negative side effects include insomnia, malnourishment, and social deficits. Family members of those living with WA have reported episodes of withdrawal, lack of spontaneity, decreased desire to engage in family activities, lack of personal care, and sustained periods of restlessness in those diagnosed.
Currently, the typical diagnostic criteria used to determine addiction is not apparent in all cases, many go unrecognized by the medical and psychiatric communities leading to a majority of cases being diagnosed by family members. Many of those with WA are self diagnosed.
In many instances you may hear it referred to as a syndrome in lieu of an addiction. A majority of those with WA do not see it as an addiction, they believe they were born with WA. Popular theory and current research suggests there may be a genetic component involved.
Since the diagnostic criterium for addiction is not always met, WA, also known as Writing Addiction, or Writing Syndrome, is often a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning you know your addicted if you’ve excluded everything else in life aside from the written word.
In fact, if you are reading this you may have one of two very real addictions, perhaps even both. If you are reading simply because you must read you more than likely have RA, Reading Addiction. If you are reading this and already thinking of what to write about it, it’s safe to say you are a Writing addict. If you are reading this out of sheer compulsion AND thinking of what to write, you are not alone, a majority of those diagnosed carry a dual diagnosis referred to as RAWA, Reading and Writing Addiction. There is no shame.
Writing addiction is not something you plan. It is an all-encompassing desire, the more you write the more you need to write. Like most addictions, it begins to consume you. At first it’s just jotting things down now and then, a bit of poetry here, a little prose there and soon you’re writing stories and sonnets and epic works of words late into the night.
It’s a secret addiction in the beginning, harmless to most. Writing addicts typically start in their spare time. It doesn’t take long until spare time is no longer enough; it begins to creep into their day. When you’re supposed to be doing bills an idea will hit and next thing you know you’ve written half a chapter on the back of your electric bill.
It doesn’t end there. Dinners get burned, kids are late for school, laundry piles up and you forget to feed the dogs, you write about it though. Hungry Dogs, a Tale of Sad Tails. When it first begins it’s easy to hide, but soon you get careless and scraps of paper litter the countertops and the dressers, notebooks and journals are in every room of the house.
Your desktop is filled with papers and coffee cups. Oh yes, coffee cups. Once the addiction has you in its clutches you forego nourishment for a good old Cup-o-Joe to keep you going. Snack foods sustain life. By the time family and friends see the signs it’s too late. No one says anything until you arrive at school in the afternoon to pick up your children wearing yesterday’s pajamas.
By the time anyone suspects there is a problem it’s already too late. Sure, they can hold interventions; they can beg and plead, but the need to write simply cannot be overcome. Once you have it, you have it for life. Eventually those who love you will accept the reality of your life. You are a writer.
There isn’t much you can do for someone with writing addiction except accept them and love them just as you did before they picked up a pen. As previously mentioned, in some cases it appears to be genetic; many children of writing addicts are themselves addicts by the time they reach puberty. The same can be said for the offspring of reading addicts. There has yet to be a cure, its doubtful there ever will be.
I myself am a reading and writing addict. It began when I took my first breath, my family has tried to put an end to it, but they’ve never succeeded. They’ve never even come close. They know I will write about them if they push it too far. Do they think I don’t know casserole will burn if I don’t stop writing long enough to take it out of the oven? I mean seriously, why else would I keep a fire extinguisher at my desk. I’m one step ahead them.
In conclusion, writing can in fact, be an addiction. There is no way to know who will become a slave to the written word. There is no way to stop it once it has begun. I suppose those of us with writing addiction are enabling the reading addicts among us, they can’t get enough of what we do . . . but then, are they not in a sense encouraging our own addiction to writing? And what of those of us with the dual addiction, we are our own worst enemy and best friend; it is a vicious circle, one with no end.
If a cure is ever found I’m heading for the hills. I wonder if I can get high-speed Internet service up there . . . no matter, paper, pens and solitude is all I need to feed the hunger. No twelve step programs for me, I’ll write one for anyone who wishes to work through their beautiful addiction though, not that anyone would.
Crystal R. Cook