Revision Brain Syndrome (RBS)
RBS is destined to be added to the list of serious psychological maladies in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition (DSM V) as a condition plaguing millions of writers. (cue Sarah McLachlan sad puppy music here)
Self-diagnosis is difficult and I’ll warn you now to stay off of WebMD because you will convince yourself that you have contracted a rare, incurable variant of Dengue Fever Brain Rot. However, at great personal risk, I have compiled a few symptoms of RBS, which serve as markers of the devastating disease.
Loss: You’ve poured your soul into your manuscript and an editor, agent, or publishing house rejects the thing. You get a pre-printed form postcard telling you your baby is ugly. You feel failure, self-actualized self doubt and utter loss. The manuscript is dead, nothing more than birdcage liner.
Blame: Don’t “they” see? Why doesn’t that publishing house get it? They are shallow and short sighted. You’ll show them what they’ve passed (or pissed) on. The fact that you sent your erotic devil worshipping novella to a Christian children’s publisher is beside the point. It is “their” fault.
Substance Abuse: To cope with the loss and rejection, RBS sufferers turn to addictive substances, coffee, chocolate and licorice. It is a chronic relapsing condition masking the pain of failure with a jolt of caffeine, sugar, or in many cases, Scotch. I tend to gravitate to the latter until the tears run dry.
Dementia: Once the reality of the situation begins to bounce around the RBS sufferer’s fragile mind, short term memory loss begins to take root. You can’t remember why that sub-sub plot was so important, or why that character had to exhibit all the tendencies of being someone too stupid to live. The very things the review found vomitous, the things that were so precious to me, I have no memory of creating. Dementia in this regard, is one of the few positive side effects of RBS. You can let go and move on.
Homicidal Tendencies: Once you let go, the revising writer with RBS takes on certain Psychopathic qualities. Kill. It. There is no emotion left, all the raw feelings from rejection are gone. Your are now the Hannibal Lecter of revision. Your manuscript has become the Old Yeller of written work and it’s time to put that rabid dog down.
Personal Hygiene: In the trance of RBS fueled manuscript slashing, attention to one’s personal grooming is an afterthought. When showering is considered akin to quitting, you may be deep into RBS. Making personal bargains to not shave until you finish, or not changing your lucky underwear are common.
What’s next?: Among the hormonal changes experienced by RBS victims is brain drift. Halfway through the revision process the writer is unable to focus on the manuscript under repair and the urge to move on to the next story idea is irresistible. The pull is so strong that the RBS patient forgets the reason for making the revisions and merely patches over the rough spots with word filler. This is a sure way to start the cycle of rejection all over once again…
When you experience any and all of these symptoms, you know that you are in a serious bout of RBS. The neural pathways in the writer’s brain are different than “normal people.” You’ve probably noticed that you’re the one looking for patterns and clues in the ordinary everyday. Eavesdropping on conversations to pick up dialogue ideas, or inventing backstories about people on the street aren’t normal. Yet, that’s what we do.
There is no cure for RBS. There is no telethon, or pledge campaign rich enough to find a treatment for the ravages of this disease. All you can do is write through it…