My question is kind of a personal question for me to ask and possibly for you to answer. I’ve been a writer, well you could say my entire life, because it’s more than a profession it’s an identity, isn’t it? I find that I spend a lot of time “in my head” so to speak. That is to say, I spend probably 80% of my day day dreaming and fantasizing and exploring my imagination. Something that I know could be easily misinterpreted as a mental illness but nobody’s perfect.
Do you find yourself in similar shoes? And if so, do you find that your writing in a way sort of hinders your life? How do you cope? I sometimes talk myself, well quite often I can be found talking to myself. It’s like all the characters of the story I’m currently working on just start having dialogue and I’m able to just listen and try to decide if this dialogue has the right rhythm, whether this dialogue sounds like real people talking. I’m comfortable with all this and when it comes to writing I don’t think I’m all that bad. I was just curious to see if I have something in common with a successful writer.
When it comes to writers, there’s a fine line between talented and bonkers. Yes, I talk to myself. Yes, I zone out at times, and if you were to ask me where I was, the honest answer would be, “on a bridge in Mongolia.” But I think that’s fairly normal. I don’t worry about it much.
The closest I came to the far side of sane was during my tenure on “D.C.”, a television show I created for the WB in 2000. The wonder of TV, of course, was that I was writing for the same characters and the same sets week after week. But once exhaustion set in, any bit of external stimulation — a conversation with a friend, a song on the radio — went through this filter in my head to ask the Big Question: Could I use this on the show?
It’s like there were two worlds existing simultaneously, and the imaginary one was much more important. My job was to stoke its fires, and keep alive.
I got fired from the show before I could reach complete mental breakdown, but I’m sure it would have happened. The experience made me much more appreciative of normal life. Sometimes a conversation is just a conversation, and a song is just a song.
For those readers wondering if they might be Actually Crazy, rather than just artistic, I’d recommend taking an objective look at your daily life. Do you shower and go to work? Do you have meaningful conversations with friends and acquaintances? Is your living space reasonably tidy, and free of year-old newspapers? If so, keep on talking to yourself. If not, talk to a doctor or another mental health professional and get their considered opinion.
I don’t think you have to be nuts to be a good writer. Nor do I you should use writing as an excuse for not getting help when you need it.