There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line. ~Oscar Levant
There’s an old saying that goes, “There’s a fine line between Genius and Insanity.” I do believe that those of us who are writers are not only standing on that fine line but we stomp up and down the entire line and sneer at both sides. We aren’t geniuses and we aren’t insane. We are both and very proud of it!
From the Cradle…
Children show their creativity at an early age and, if nurtured by the parents, it will further develop and blossom into a broad imagination. I grew up with my sister and two neighbor girls and played with Barbie dolls (I did have a Ken doll) and an assortment of stuffed animals. I never was the boy who was into sports, cars, and any of that macho stuff. It never really interested me even though I did two years of Little League Baseball.
It wasn’t until I was in Junior High that I showed an interest in writing. I started with a crappy play rendition of “The Wizard of Oz” and expanded to a series of stage plays featuring The Marx Brothers.
In college a buddy of mine introduced me to this Science Fiction idea the he and another friend of his were working on years ago and this was when I started to take a more serious interest in writing. From there I made several attempts to write Fantasy and it wasn’t until 2005 that things began to pay off.
Now ten years later I have a Fantasy trilogy completed and three short stories with many more ideas waiting to come to fruition. Currently, I’m stonewalled as I want to write several stories and I have characters in my mind shouting for attention so that their story is written.
…to the Madhouse.
This is one of the main reasons why people see writers as insane. We openly talk to our characters (threaten to kill them off in chapter 4 if they don’t behave); we openly plot how we’re going to kill ol’ lady Jensen when she comes around the corner. The Blond Writer recently revealed that she got her characters to talk to her and it was an eye-opening experience for her. For the rest of us, there are times when we want them to just shut up so we can go to sleep, speak calmly to your child’s principal, and discuss the next play date with your neighbor.
And thing which would send us to the madhouse is that we do searches online for things that usually only serial killers would have an interest in and, we sometimes, draw unwanted attention by the government just because we want to know how to build a Death Ray.
In a recent blog post, Author Kristen Lamb discusses that fact that a lot of writers could easily be mistaken for serial killers in the amount of things we research on the internet and comments we nonchalantly make to our non-writing friends.
For the NaNoWriMo challenge in 2008 I was researching the Salem Witch Trials hoping to create something similar for my story. I grabbed a bunch of books from the library and, while waiting the in the front foyer of the school to pick up my daughters, I brought one of the books in to read. The cover had a noose on the front of it. Another father came up to me and asked a question about which grades were released first, I answered him, and then returned to my book. He must have caught a glimpse of the cover because when I next looked up, I saw him on the other side of the foyer.
Although I haven’t done any extensive research online, I do have a collection of books that would make any serial killer writer jealous. One I’m particularly proud of owning is The History of Torture and Execution. I bought that one at our local Renaissance Festival and have taken it to work to read in the break room a couple of times. I also have a set of encyclopedias called Crime and Punishment, a set I picked up through the mail back in 1996-1999. It’s a 28 volume set (plus 3 years books) or basic crime descriptions plus real life case histories of some of the more notorious criminals in the world. Everyone from Lizzie Borden and Al Capone to Jeffery Dahmer and OJ Simpson.
I have as of yet to create a murder mystery of any kind but I do like having the books on my shelf and it would most likely keep people away from wanting to engage in any meaningful conversation about the whales or frogs. If you want to discuss saving dragons, or what chainsaw you prefer to dismember a cheerleader, then come right in and I’ll make us some tea!
A Twisted Mind (Author’s Theme Song)
Worldbuilding is another facet that gives non-writer people fits when we yell at our characters to head west towards the Mountains of the Dwarves when they want to head south and tackle the Undead Beast from the Netherworld which will instantly kill them because they aren’t ready for it. Plus, you’re half-tempted to allow them to go just to show that they are wrong and you are the one in control.
Suddenly we’re accused of having a god complex and being drunk with power because we state, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” Next thing you know you’re being fitted for a white coat so that you can give yourself hugs and a room with rubber wallpaper. Just because you have a map of your fictional world spread out over the dining room table and are moving plastic men around to work out the army’s next attack doesn’t mean you are insane. You want to visualize the scene before you write it. Maps are your friend and without them you could send you characters in different directions but each time, passing the same business. Of course, if this if part of your story then great. If not, then you’re going to need a great memory.
Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner madman! It’s better to verbally release your creativity to the page than to keep it bottle up inside until you literally snap and are the Main Character on 20/20 or Dateline. If you non-writer friends still find you weird, embrace that too, then threaten to create a character based on them and put them in various situations that could have them tortured or killed.
Share with me what experiences of being an insane genius you have had. Scared the family? Worried your co-workers? Let me hear your creative minds!!