OWC-Syndrome – A common writers’ defect.

Dear readers,

I’m here to talk about a very serious aspect of what it means to be a writer and the disadvantages of being one. Set aside the common “OCD” (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) we almost universally seem to have in common, our lack of money (most of the time), our hard to live with characters (don’t even bother denying) and the enemy known as “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”/”Repetitive Stress Injury” from too much writing and working (fapping not included) there is one more enemy that all too many (aspiring) writers suffer from. This enemy is called OWC.

So before we set out to dissect OWC into small fragments to find out the meaning, let us first explore where the problem is at. OWC is in itself a mental issue, it’s not (or hardly) physical but evident as it is something that you will see surprisingly many writers complain and/or brag about. That’s right, brag about – as if these are their battle scars of sorts. Inappropriate at the least.
OWC tends to bring people’s creativity down, arguably it contributes to “quantity over quality” as it becomes a steady part of their working rhythm as opposed to a symptom of stressful work, writers block and deadlines.

After doing some research I managed to get hold of Dr. Emmanuelle Rasér, neurobiologists at the l’Hôpital l’Écriture, and after some exchanging of e-mails and a very awkward mistake with picture attachments (for which I again apologize!) she agreed to send me some of the research and how she has worked over the past six(!) years with a combined team of psychologists, neurobiologists, psychiatrists and many volunteers amongst Literary-students to classify OWC-syndrome.

The research is absolutely intriguing but too complicated, too large and partially “too sensitive” (believe it or not, medical research needs copyrights too!) to post it all blatantly for you to read. So I asked Dr. E. if she would be as kind as to make a small statement. And such she did.

“As part of a six year study at our facility it has become very apparent that OWC not only influences the work of the author, but also his/her brain and way of thinking. Much more disturbing is the influence it tends to have on those they work with, the following that takes them as an example and begins suffering from similar symptoms. The ‘infectious’ qualities of mental illnesses have long been described but perhaps have never been more apparent than they are in OWC. OWC is not to be taken lightly and when a patient begins showing symptoms they should immediately battle the condition and/or seek help in their struggle and efforts.”

I had to translate the above excerpt from French, so there may be some minor inaccuracies, but I hope you understood and caught the seriousness of what OWC is.

I also know that the research I did on this was pretty much “over the top” – it took me hours and costed me a small fortune making an hour-long phone call to Paris with my (at best) high-school French language capabilities. I do however know that because I quoted a legitimate medical professional it will take away any shred of doubt you could have about the truthfulness of this subject.
Right? …Still having doubts? Good. You should. Why? I just pulled your leg, I did. Ha!

So you ask, with tears in your eyes, is this all an elaborate joke to humiliate me? Are you evil in your heart, you sexy beast you? …Well I am a “little” evil in my heart but no… This isn’t a joke. This is about something that has been annoying the bejesus out of me since I started working with and following other writers on, amongst other places, Twitter.

So what does OWC stands for? “Obsessive Word Counting”; I coined this term myself and I claim all rights to it. That’s right, it’s all mine.
OWC sufferers seem to think that:

“@5up3rWr173r101: I WROTE LIKE 5000 WORDS TODAY! AND NOW I’M GOING TO EAT SAUSAGE! OLOLZ.”

Is a legitimate thing to be proud of and Tweet about. Dear (aspiring) writers… Please realize the following – warning here be curses – your word count means “F#$K SH#T ALL”… Yes, I said it. It means absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.
No one in the business, by which I mean the real deal and not those of us who think we’re “real writers” but not really, genuinely cares about how many words you splurged onto the screen or paper. The only thing that matters, truly matters, is the quality of your words. Consider the following example:

“So the girl was standing against the wall, not completely, but mostly with her back against it. Her back was cold cause the wall was partially frozen. She was thinking of her friend Nancy, who was her best friend but they lost contact a year before, and the thought made her feel weird like it was bad but still she liked thinking of her. Then the school bell rang and she ran back inside so she could sit next to the guy she had a crush on because he was really hot like a movie star, she liked that.”

And now read this late 17th century Japanese Haiku by Matsuo Bashō:

tabi ni yande / yume wa kareno wo / kake meguru

falling sick on a journey / my dream goes wandering / over a field of dried grass [1694]

Now tell me, which of these examples had more of a story to tell and was more capturing? If you think “the girl story” was better… Please put down your pencil, close your laptop and never, ever, try to be a writer again.

The first example was a whole load of nothing crammed chockfull of words, delivering nothing. The second example is fifteen words which tells you of a man who becomes ill during his journey, sees his dream of travelling going up into thin air over a field of grass which is as dead as is hopes to recover. Matsuo died shortly after.

I think, or hope, you are indeed talented and smart enough to tell the difference in quality and what was put forth. Matsuo wrote in fifteen words what would take our “Girl at School”-writer five thousand words or more. As such we can safely conclude that despite only writing down a few sentences Matsuo has won regardless of “writing less”.

My point is, please don’t make loose statements on how many words you wrote today, you could’ve written all grocery-lists for all we know, instead tell us of the effort you made and what change it made to your story. It’s like someone stating: “I drove three hundred miles today!” – Then when you later find out they only drove circles over a parking lot you realize their journey didn’t quite take them any further.

Conclusion: Write what you feel you need to write to make your story better, if it’s seven-thousand words that made it perfect then kudos, if it only took five-hundred words to make it into a masterpiece then perhaps that’s even better. But for the love of God, stop Tweeting about your impressive word count! No one who truly knows about these things will be impressed!

Best of luck writing,

– Bobby S.

P.S.: For those of you that paid attention: Dr. Emmanuelle Raser shortens to “Dr. E.Raser.”… Get it? And the hospital? It really translates to a very bodged way of saying “Writing Hospital”. I can’t believe you fell for that. Sucker!

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14 comments

  1. Chris Skowron

    Oh Bobby…loved this!! Especially the mistaken pic exchange!!! Only you! Also E Raser lol. On a serious note…dead on with the quality over quantity. As always, love your work. Thanks …my creative juices are flowing

  2. ZoeyDerrick

    If you were near by I’d probably smack you, then I laugh because this was good. Love Dr. E Raser and of course it is all about quality and never the quantity. Some people are capable of expressing something in ten words when it take someone else 500.

    Hmm, a bad picture exchange? I wonder what that could be. Oh and that right there got me, why would you be exchanging pictures with a Dr. unless of course you have some mysterious rash, in which case, I dont want to know :-P!

    To me word count just proves that I have to much time on my hands. :-)!

    *HugS*KisseS*

    Zoey

  3. Christopher

    Bobby, I agree with the ladies. Convincing freak liar indeed. You had me in the first paragraph… Dr. E. Raser was a dead giveaway though but Holly crap was that funny. 🙂
    Genius…

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