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Confessions of a Serial OCDer by Deborah Riley-Magnus

I have a theory that obsessive compulsion disorder is a pick and choose kind of affliction.

For example, my desk and work areas are spotless and organized. My refrigerator? Not so much. My computer file folders are meticulously arranged and kept up to date. My email list? Just, ah well, nope. My bedroom is neat and clean, dusted and presentable at all times. My closets? Don’t even go there.

If OCD is picky and choosy, why is it so dominant in my creative-slash-fun life? I intuitively know baseball statistics and scores, player’s batting averages, and pitchers’ ERA (earned run average.) Lots of numbers to remember, but I can’t balance my checkbook. I understand savory flavor profiles and can put on a spectacular dinner party, but I can’t bake a cookie, cake, or pie if my life depended on it.

I’m sure we’re all a bundle of contradictions, but this serial OCD affliction is both beneficial and detrimental to my creative-slash-fun life. I so love going on long Sunday drives, but I can’t even start unless I know where I’m going and exactly the best route to get there. Kinda takes all the spontaneity out of it.


For years I loved to make quilts.

Not the run of the mill, buy a book, follow the instructions, and purchase the correct amount of specified fabric kind of quilt making. I loved making original artwork quilts based on images that inspired me, like a bald eagle, abstract forms created by light through crystal, or a magical cityscape. The fabrics had to be unique and boast lots of different textures and colors. Truthfully, most of the quilts I’ve made are more like wall hangings than bed covers. When an idea formed, I quickly slipped into OCD status, obsessed with figuring it all out, exactly how each piece of fabric would fit with another, how the light would play with a rough texture or a smooth texture. Needless to say, this process could take as long as a year before I would actually step foot into a fabric store, choose fabric, start cutting or sewing. It’s a real hoot when someone points to one of my quilts and says, “It only took Deb two weeks to make that!” *snort*


This serial creative OCD, naturally, seeps into my writing in a big way.

I may teach authors how to market their books for a living, but like most of you, I’m a fiction writer, too. This is where the real obsessive stuff comes in.

It goes without saying that I’m no seat-of-the-pants writer. Over two decades I’ve written short stories, fanfiction, two-book sagas, several trilogies, and longer series fiction books. (I also write nonfiction to support my author marketing business, but oddly, it’s a far less painful OCD process than fiction. Go figure.) All my fiction has heavy elements of fantasy, so, like all my OCD writer friends, I have scrupulous notes and painstaking endless lists for:

  • Timelines
  • Plot
  • Plot Twists
  • Unique World Elements
  • Correct Character Name Spelling
  • Each Character’s Coloring
  • Each Character’s History
  • Character Arc Development
  • Specific Clothing for Various Levels of the Society
  • Original Language or Colloquialisms
  • Money and Commerce Exchange Specifics
  • Weather Patterns
  • Creature Descriptions
  • Creature History
  • World Politics
  • General Maps

And the lists go on and on, but like a beautiful, uniquely designed quilt, once I’ve gotten everything in line, I’m a writing machine! Keeping all the information on a word doc helps so much, keeping me on track and flying toward completion. Of course, an all-new list is added for the next book in a series. Lists that cover things like—what must be repeated to remind the reader, and what must be introduced to keep the reader moving along with the story. Good gravy, I LOVE complicated creative things!


My question is, and has always has been, does this obsessive behavior help or hinder me?

While the pantsers of the world are turning out several books a year and enjoying the ride their characters take them on, I’m sweating the details. Or, is it that I LIKE sweating the details?

I’m over the hump and living out the final third of my long obsessive life. Several times I’ve tried to be different in my creative-slash-fun endeavors, jumped in with both feet and no concern about the depth of the water. Those were neither good nor bad experiences. They just never measured up to the amazing excitement of imagining every detail of a rich story before I actually sit at the keyboard. It makes my heart pump, keeps me awake at night, and sometimes stops me dead in my tracks in the middle of Costco. I actually smile, and people who know me know exactly what’s coming next. “Oh man,” I always say. “I have an idea!” They recognize it’ll be a year before they see it, though.

Maybe this is a topic I should be discussing with a shrink, but I am totally sure I’m not alone with it. Remember, I work with author clients every day, and you guys tell me a lot about your creative process. I only wish this condition would spread into the things I don’t quite like so much, like spring cleaning or floor scrubbing. (Does anyone really still scrub floors?) My time is so much better spent obsessing over a new plot or character than loading the washing machine. I have been known to buy new underwear because I ran out and was too happy/busy writing to wash clothes. It happens.

For all the pantsers out there, I so envy you. I envy the courage and fun of jumping on the amusement ride prepared to take you into the darkness. It must be exhilarating and while I wave to you before you disappear into the unknown, I am jealous.

Whether you’re a serial creative OCDer like me, or a card carrying pantser, writing is a personal journey. It’s a courageous and dangerous journey that can lead to unbelievable rewards and joy. It’s a reason to ignore cluttered closets and not-so-clean refrigerators. Write on and never forget—this is the best fun anyone ever had!

Any other creative-slash-fun serial OCDers out there? I’d love to hear your individual obsession for the best book you can write

Love this?

Join Deb in September, October, and November for the PRISM MARKETING SYSTEM Live Webinar Workshops series.


Bridging the Gap between Creative Writer and Marketing Author

Marketing is a very scary prospect for authors. It seems like a foreign language meant to be spoken in a far off land without an embassy to help explain the culture. None of this is true. It isn’t marketing that’s the issue—it’s a fear and general misunderstanding of marketing in relation to an author’s talents and skill set.

Authors are creative people who solve problems within their imagination. Just because they’ve never been creative within the marketing universe does not mean they can’t. In fact, the more creative a marketing author is, the further they step away from the competition, and the more book sales success they will find.

Write Brain/Left Brain is the goose with the golden egg. These pages open doors to thinking outside the box and away from the noisy competition. It encourages authors to see the bigger book buying world, imaginatively seek out broader audiences, and always trust their creative nose to accomplish their book sales goals. This book is designed to remove an author’s fear of marketing and replace it with the inventive possibilities specific to the book marketed.

Authors, open your mind and take the empowering leap into the astonishing, imaginative marketing playground.


Awesome, heart-centered help from someone who really knows what she’s doing.

Demi Stevens, owner, Year of The Book Press


Before spending time with Deborah Riley-Magnus, I thought marketing was the devil—or at least beyond my capabilities—so I did little to promote my books. The proof was in my sales which were great with my friends, and friends of friends, but did little more than that. After working with Deb, I have a whole new outlook, realize there are many creative ways of marketing, and am excited about my next steps. I write books I know my readers will love… now I’m ready to go find my audience.

Gloria Baer Bostic, Author


Deb’s marketing advice made a world of difference in how I described a book I was querying. Using what she taught me in my query letter got agent attention immediately. I started getting requests for my manuscript where before I wouldn’t hear anything. I’ll always consult with Deb before querying. She’s a treasure!

Jen Sako, Author

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach with forty-plus years professional background in marketing, advertising, and public rela...