I think all writers are at least mildly insane. Some are functionally insane, others are just outright bonkers. I believe I’m at least somewhat loopy. My head is filled with characters and worlds and stories and places and events that seem quite real to me, so I write them down and turn them into fiction. But if I weren’t a writer, and still had all this madness in my head, people would just say, “That guy’s nuts.” If I weren’t writing down all the imaginary visions in my brain, I’d be telling them to random people on the street corner, and that might not go over well. Writers of fiction are given license to be fanciful. Also, if I was not writing, I’d definitely go totally mad; as Norman Bates once said: “We all go a little mad sometimes.” My words are a wonderful outlet for my mild insanity. Thank the heavens for writing. It gives my brain a place to store my own brand of unreality. My eyes see the real world, my brain sees the Otherworld.
When speaking of nonfiction writers, there’s an element of madness present there, too. Why? Because making a living at writing is nearly impossible. Forgive my lack of research, but I’m sure I read somewhere that only about 5 percent of writers can actually make a living solely through writing. But we writers trudge forward, despite the long odds. Insane? Sure. But denying yourself of the thing you love most is a different sort of crazy.
Insanity is not the sole domain of writers. Artists of all sorts channel their madness into their work. Painters are certainly bonkers. Vincent van Gogh was not a stable man; his ear would attest to that. Painters see the world in a way the rest of us do not. Painters see black sunsets and roses shaped like Satan. Whatever your creative outlet–whether you write, paint, sing, dance, jump from tall buildings, eat fifty hot dogs–most would admit that without that outlet they’d probably totally lose their shit.
So, yes, I fully admit that I am not right in the head. I am only ever truly content when writing. I am only at peace when my words are coming fast and free, when I’m in some other world, tangling with vampires or dealing with the father I never had. I work out my issues through writing. After a good stretch of writing, I am cleansed, for a short while, at least. Then my brain fills with new ideas, new people of my own invention, new childhood traumas where catharsis can only come through writing. Simply put, without writing, I would be lost. I function well in society. Most people who know me see just a sweet, decent, average guy. But I know the truth. I know the madness deep inside. I am kind to people in the real world; I am mostly unkind to my characters in the fictional world. In real life, I wonder if the happy ending I search for will ever arrive. In my writing, I have created hundreds of happy endings, and quite a few unhappy ones. Writing keeps me sane enough to live a productive life. Without writing, who knows where I’d be.
I wonder about all the non-creative people out there. Bankers. Clerks. Dishwashers. Bricklayers. The homeless people I pass every day on my short walk home through the streets of San Francisco. What is their creative outlet? Knitting? Crossword puzzles? Video games? Beer? Prescription drugs? I’m sure most people who spend their lives in non-creative fields stifle their insanity in some way. At least I hope so.
I am thankful every day that I found a way to channel my small measure of crazy. I hope my small crazy won’t some day become big crazy. Writing will keep me in check. Writing will let my crazy blossom in wonderful ways and maybe entertain a few folks along the way.
But, without a doubt, I have moments of bugfuck lunacy.
So, I wonder, for all of you kind enough to read the ravings of an admittedly insane individual…Do you sometimes feels crazy? Do you feel it often or infrequently? If you didn’t have writing in your life, would you lose it? Would you be the same person you are today without your creative outlet?
If we writers see UFOs and monsters and crazy love stories and planets that don’t exist and people who couldn’t possibly be real and vampires in love and outlandish conspiracies, does that make us not normal? Personally, I’ll take my crazy and run with it, because it’s the best kind of crazy.
Do you think it takes a tiny bit of madness to write well? I do. But what do I know? I’m crazy.