May 25 2009

Mental Conditions in the Workplace

Published by at 8:01 am under Writing Articles

I’ve been getting a few questions like this, so I think it might be worthwhile to offer some untrained advice. For the love of God, please do not use this in lieu of professional advice from a medical professional.

Hello, B. Mac. I suffer from [mental condition X.] How will that affect my writing career?

1. Get yourself diagnosed and treated by a professional… self-diagnosed conditions are not credible. If you really believed that you had something, you’d be an idiot not to have it looked at. If you tell a coworker that you have a self-diagnosed condition, you’re pretty much admitting that you’re idiotic or dishonest. (If money is an issue, the good news is that professionals tend to be pretty accommodating of financial need).

2. Your medical history (including psychiatric conditions) should be provided only on a need-to-know basis. Telling your boss or coworkers more than they need to know will create barriers between them and you, particularly if they don’t know you very well. It could also creep them out.

3. PSYCHIATRIC DETAILS MAKE FOR A TERRIBLE FIRST IMPRESSION. If you feel that a coworker or boss needs to know, please be gradual! Let them get to know you before introducing potentially unsettling elements. That will help them think of you as a person that happens to have condition X rather than “that X guy.” If you introduce yourself as a person that has X, it makes it sound like you want to be treated as “that X guy.” Ick. That is not an effective way to start a working relationship.

4. Adjust accordingly. For example…

  • If you have dyslexia, get a proofreader or dictator. It is usually unreasonable to ask a friend to pour hundreds of hours into proofreading your work for free.
  • Whether you have dyslexia or not, an editor is instantly going to reject a poorly-edited manuscript.

  • If you have depression or another condition that makes it hard for you to meet deadlines, try writing the book before selling it. (If you’re a first-time novelist, you have to anyway). That will make it easier for you to meet your deadlines. If you’re a comic book writer, have several issues scripted rather than just the one.

5. If you are not able to compensate for your mental conditions, please consider other lines of work. I’ve always wanted to be a basketball player, but I’m 5”6′ and slow. I’m not a good fit for basketball. If your mental conditions make you the authorial equivalent of a 5”6′ basketball player, you can probably find another job that fits your skills and capabilities better.

6. Any advice you find online (including this article) is superseded by any advice from a medical professional. They’re trained to handle cases like yours; I am not.

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Mental Conditions in the Workplace”

  1. Ragged Boyon 26 May 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Compensate. Ain’t it the truth.

  2. B. Macon 27 May 2009 at 6:52 am

    This isn’t a mental condition or anything like that, but my writing is usually a bit flitty. I compensated for that by switching to nonfiction. Fiction is almost always read in order, but many kinds of nonfiction allow the reader to start at the chapter that he finds most interesting. For example, writing guidebooks. If you want my advice on how to write dialogue before my advice on characters, you can just skip to that chapter. (In some ways, that does make my life a bit trickier… when I’m writing chapter 3, I can’t assume that every reader is familiar with chapter 1).

  3. Ragged Boyon 27 May 2009 at 7:34 am

    I compensate for my condition by working harder at the things that I do. I remember you saying somewhere (I think we were talking about House) how people will excuse some issues with a person if they are competent at what they do. Although, I’ve never been in a work environment besides school, I’m sure I can work through my disorder for my summer job. I doubt I’ll mainly be working with people anyway.

    And I ususally do keep my condition a secret. Although, I have mentioned it a few times on the site.

  4. Tomon 27 May 2009 at 7:43 am

    Really? It slipped past me. I didn’t even know you have…whatever condition you have…

  5. Ragged Boyon 27 May 2009 at 7:49 am

    I think I’ve mentioned it three(?) times, but that was before you got here. I have [deleted]. Nothing major and it’s only apparent when I’m stressed out. Luckily, I’ve been doing well lately.

  6. Tomon 27 May 2009 at 7:50 am

    Ah. Okay. Just curious is all.

  7. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 28 May 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Hey! I’ve been doing so much homework that I haven’t been able to do anything fun lately. I will be on and off for the next few weeks because I have to study for exams.

    I don’t have any mental conditions (does randomness count?) but I always write several chapters ahead. I was going to post something on fictionpress, but then decided not to. I typed five chapters to make sure I’d always stay ahead of readers and be able to change things if I had to, but in the end I didn’t and it’s on my list of stories to complete.

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