My Ann Elk theory on OCD and authordom

It’s probably complete and utter bollocks, this theory, but hey, when have I ever let anything inconvenient like facts get in my way when I have supposition to guide me? Yeh. A while back, a friend told me that I’m a bit OCD. We’ve known each other since we were about fourteen and she said she was surprised that she only noticed it in a weird way when we were in our thirties. Basically, I went round her’s for supper one night and to stay over. We had a lovely meal, me her and her sister.

Afterwards, apparently, I’d been banging on about some transport related subject and wouldn’t let it drop. She and her sister thought I had gone completely mental. She hadn’t ever remembered me as being all OCD like that. As you can imagine, I thought the evening had gone really well, because I’m sensitive like that and always ready to pick up on nuance! Mwahahahaahargh.

But while I was on holiday back in April this year, something happened that made me realise my friend’s evaluation is probably true. I think I am a bit OCD. But this is the thing, surely most authors are. I mean, first of all, you have to have this kind of dissatisfaction with the order of Real Life Things to want to create your own pimped version. Second, you get hung up on the most bizarre, ‘what the fuck is that? Questions of day to day existence, usually concerning stuff other folks haven’t even noticed. That makes sense, to me, because it’s only by noticing all that shit that other people stare at and never see that you can add texture to the worlds you build. Those silly small details that make them real. Here’s an example.

Angry Pam

This is one of my favourite eyebombs which I like to call Angry Pam. But the reason it’s called Pam is because so many of the inspection covers in my home town, despite being all sorts of different shapes and sizes, seem to be labelled PAM. A lot of them have that little logo, too, the one that is making up Angry Pam’s moustache in the picture. I’m afraid I do notice stuff like the names on drain covers, because I’m intrigued to think that there’s this whole niche industry about which I know nothing. To me, understanding what the legs are doing underneath to make it move, is far more important, and interesting, than the swan on the surface. And let’s face it, despite the fact inspection covers are pretty much indestructible, somebody, somewhere, has to make these things, surely. They must have a brand image, marketing departments and presumably, enthusiasts. Because no matter what we are talking about, there will group of enthusiasts somewhere who are interested in it. But apart from noticing the different designs on coal hole covers in London (thanks to my friend and fellow spud, Duncan, drawing my attention to them) I’ve never really registered anything more … other than as a source of eyebombing opportunity, until I went on holiday.

Pont a whatchewmecallit – up top RH by the gum

Then as we wandered round Tournus I discovered that there, too, many of the duct/manhole/drain covers were also labelled PAM. Then I found one labelled Pont a Mousson. Could that be what PAM was? Well, yes, obviously. Could I let it drop there? No. Because I’m a massively sad spud, this really intrigued me. Did it mean all these drain lids, lids, the world over, were made by the same firm, you know, the same way all modern buttons are made in the same factory in China (oven elements too, unless you buy a LaConche).

My burning curiosity was too much so, God bless data roaming, I googled it. I know, I know, welcome to my OCD world. Thanks to a blog I stumbled upon called Manhole miscellany – what did I tell you about enthusiasts people? – I now know that Pont a Mousson is a metallurgy company based in the Saint Gobain area of France and is still operating. It has it’s own website – yep – but Manhole Miscellany’s take on it is far more succinct and readable. Not a lot of people know this, not a lot of people want to. The company was founded in 1896 and Angry Pam’s moustache is actually the old bridge across the river there, which was destroyed in WWII and replaced by supremely unremarkable concrete road bridge. The company started out making water pipes, which, at the time, was a bold and futuristic step. It still aims to keep at the cutting technological edge of the industry in which it operates.

Fascinating right?

Only to me probably but wasn’t it Terry Pratchett who said …

“I read anything that’s going to be interesting. But you don’t know what it is until you’ve read it. Somewhere in a book on the history of false teeth there’ll be the making of a novel.”

He also said,

“Fantasy doesn’t have to be fantastic. American writers in particular find this much harder to grasp. You need to have your feet on the ground as much as your head in the clouds. The cute dragon that sits on your shoulder also craps all down your back, but this makes it more interesting because it gives it an added dimension.”

Maybe that’s it then, in order to build worlds, writers need a little bit of OCD. Perhaps that’s how we achieve the attention to detail required to build a credible world, even if, in the final book, none of those details go in. Perhaps they have to just be there, to give it solidity. Maybe authors are people who can hold more irrelevant shit in their brain before it ceases to function. Perhaps our love of minutiae is simpler because we can hold more of it. Or perhaps I’m just trying to find credible reasons for being weird. I’ll leave you to decide!



Filed under General Wittering

13 responses to “My Ann Elk theory on OCD and authordom

  1. On FB someone said they were going to start having meetings for OCD people at their home – so it would gt thoroughly cleaned.

    Wish that it would be only the useful stuff!

  2. Agree with you completely about seeing things other people miss, but I don’t think it’s weird at all … them’s wot don’t do it are the weird one’s, I say! 😀

  3. Diana

    I think I’m one of the normals, because I miss a lot of the obvious, not just the minutiae — but I am really grateful for those who don’t, and share the things I miss so that I don’t really miss them after all.

  4. Having done a bit of psychology in my ‘youth’ I am fascinated by the insistence of certain people lured by the media, to a) label people b) decide where ‘normal’ is in their narrow view of things and c) whatever c was when I first started typing this.
    You are probably in the middle of the OCD scale, from absolutely not, to definitely, like me. Ditto the autism scale. Ditto probably the cholesterol scale, except they keeping changing where they put the ‘must reduce your level’ depending on the pressure from drug companies to sell more of their unnecessary products.
    You’re normal. Maybe on the wackier end of the scale of normal, but that’s why we love you.

    • Diana

      I love your “c)” option! Made me laugh aloud. And your conclusion.
      The fact that M is able to express her wackier side is very very appealing.

    • Mwahahahrgh yeh, there’s a lot of truth in that. I have tried to keep the child in me though. I’ve had to do so much boring adulting over the last few years that it’s been tricky to hold on to. There’s not as much as there was but it’s still hanging in there, just!

  5. I’d say it’s more asd than ocd but definitely being neurodivergent is essential to creativity I think. I don’t notice external details so much but I do analyse my (and other people’s) emotional and physical reactions to things ad nauseam and have no ‘that’s gross’ filters. Like telling my 22yo karate teacher that I can’t do jumps when my gi is soaked in sweat. I thought he might vomit! But in books, details like that – which aren’t generally spoken of – help you connect to the protags I like to think. My husband loved when I wrote about a teenager feeling sweat pooling in her bra because she was nervous. Gross maybe, but enlightening!

    • Actually, yes, that is gross but it’s exactly the kind of thing I notice. Hence the whole thing about The Pan of Hamgee worrying about keeping clean because being smelly might give him away when he’s hiding! Mwahahahrgh!

  6. I love finding out other people’s interests and the things they notice and are interested in. I can spot a new flower out of the corner of my eye as I drive past at 50 mph but I probably wouldn’t notice a drain cover unless I was looking for something on the ground. I do follow a blogger however, who posts pictures of drain covers etc. and gives a history of their design and where they were made. He also does bricks……

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