May 25 2009
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.
- 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.
Whether you have dyslexia or not, an editor is instantly going to reject a poorly-edited manuscript.
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.