Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hearing Voices Doesn’t Make You Crazy

By Anne Rhoades

When you’re five or six years old, it is perfectly acceptable to have imaginary friends who talk to you. That usually changes as we grow up. But it didn't for me. When I told my sister I watched movies inside my head and had conversations with the characters, she said, “I always knew you were a weirdo. Don’t tell mom and dad. They’ll send you to the funny farm.”

Needless to say, I kept it to myself. For a very. Long. Time.

I made good grades in school, went to college, worked several jobs, and gave the illusion of normal. But always, there were an awful lot of noisy people in my head, each with a story they wanted to tell. I was an apartment building and they were the tenants. I could be doing the most mundane thing in the world, like folding laundry, when someone like Annabel, an older woman in her seventies who has always painted dolphins, announced she wanted to start painting chickens. Or, in apartment 3C, the kid that drove a Schwanns truck one summer  who told me he met a girl he wanted to take to dinner and was worried about picking her up in the stinky meat truck for their date.

Did I mention this to anyone? Of course not—they would have thought I needed medication.

My life completely changed when I joined my first writers group and met a whole bunch of people just as strange as I was. I realized I wasn't crazy, I was a writer. My mental movies were stories and the voices were characters trying to come to life. For maybe the first time in my life, I felt normal.

Later that same year, I went to my first writer’s conference and sat in on a workshop given by a children’s author who had written over twenty books. She was explaining the plot of the novel she was currently working on, and laughingly told us that while she was mowing the lawn one day, her main character asked, “Did you know my mother was an alcoholic?”

And the author said to her character, “Why no, I had no idea, but that explains a lot.”

The author went on to explain that when she told her daughter about the conversation, her daughter told her not to tell anyone because they’d think she was insane. So what I've learned is that hearing voices does not make any of us crazy. Just be careful who you tell. There are a lot of weirdos out there who wouldn't understand.

Anne Rhoades is a freelance writer and copywriter by day and fiction author by night. She is currently collaborating with fellow author Patricia S. Cook on a collection of horror shorts. Check out her website/portfolio at or tweet @anne_rhoades.


Dean K Miller said...

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Richard Bach's "Ilusions...": "If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats."

We should always listen to the voices...we just don't always have to do what they say.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Being a writer of crime fiction, I have the advantage of being able to kill off any of the characters that bug me too much.

This topic is coming up a lot these days. My guest blogger today wrote about the same thing.

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