Monday, March 12, 2012

In Praise of Insanity -- Writer Style

A friend told me about a novel she’s reading where the heroine – who happens to be a book editor – comments that all writers are crazy.

I remember hearing variations on that remark back in my own book editor days. When I began on that side of the business and was still trying to fit in I kept my mouth shut on those occasions. Further on in I had a stock response.

“I’m a writer and I’m crazy for sure.”

At first that was just a comeback accompanied by an unbalanced leer. Then it became a point of pride. Eventually I grew to recognize it as a declaration of necessity. How could any of us do this thing from the middle lane of the mental road?

Our best work is accomplished in an altered state. Sometimes we occupy the consciousness and life specifics of a being not ourselves – human or otherwise. Always we are lifted out of what non-writers consider the reality of daily time and space.

Also – many of us tend toward the emotional extremes of experience at least part of the time. That is only a bad idea when we forget to write down the details and dialogue afterward.

To be fair to those who doubt the stability of a writer’s wits – it’s tough for a civilian to understand that we sometimes do our work by staring blank faced at the wall. Such are the delights of being divinely deranged.

There is another side however to this shiny coin. And that’s the reason I resent editorial comments about authorial madness. It is the editor’s world after all that dominates the non-shiny side.

If anything can drive anybody to distraction – and not in a good way – that thing is the publishing business. I won’t attempt to list the crazy-making scenarios running rampant there. I would have to write a book length post and then some.

Suffice to say this. Any setup that renders an adult professional pretty much powerless over her work life pretty much most of the time is unhinging to the max.

All of us who wander the winding byways of the writers’ community get this basic truth. Enduring publishing world crap is the price we pay for admission to the ya-ya scribblerhood. Mostly we wade through and scribble on and love what we do anyway.

What could be more lunatic than that? Or what could be more lusciously sane?


Zita said...

Thanks, Alice. Stepping into the publishing world at whatever point a writer in the journey can produce anxiety for sure. But, hey, courage comes in many forms.

Zita said...

Thanks, Alice. Stepping into the publishing world at whatever point a writer in the journey can produce anxiety for sure. But, hey, courage comes in many forms.

Alice Orr said...

Thanks to you also Zita for mentioning courage.. a crucial item for the backpack on this or any travel we may undertake... Plus boldness.. Goethe said "Be bold and great forces will come to your aid".. In this respect at least Goethe was a go-to guy.

Arline Chase said...

A writer works many hours to create the book, story, or other masterpiece.

Then says, "Okay, if you like it, we can sign a contract and you can pay me now---or whenever you happen to sell some copies...?

Sounds crazy, I admit. But it's an act of faith. The devotion is to the craft.

I became a publisher by accident when mine got ill. I was a writer long before and always will be a writer first.

Alice Orr said...

Arline.. You said it all in that one sentence.. "The devotion is to the craft.".. Sometimes there is so much frenzy in the air we can forget that. Instead we must always hearken back to the joy of doing the work because that is not in the least bit crazy ever.