“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
— Leo Tolstoy
Most NINC members are probably familiar with the concept of crazymakers as presented in Julia
Cameron’s 1992 classic, The Artist’s Way (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam). She describes crazymakers as people
we invite, most often unconsciously, into our lives to distract us from our writing. It’s a fascinating concept,
and a liberating one to recognize in our own lives. If you aren’t familiar with Cameron’s concept, I urge you
to pick up a copy of her book.
Like most writers, I’ve managed to surround myself with crazymakers at various times in my life. These
crazymakers were as damaging to my writing life as Cameron declared. Lately, however, I’ve wondered
about another aspect of crazymakers: how often are we our own crazymakers?
When we are the crazymakers, our actions have a negative effect on those we live with and on the lives
of those whom our writing directly affects. For instance, a writer might choose to postpone starting a book
until the deadline looms so close that the book can’t be completed without too many hours at the computer,
not enough hours asleep, and little time left over for family obligations, fun or communication. The writer
might like the adrenalin rush of writing flat out, might even feel he does his best writing in this manner,
but his actions look like those of a drama queen to the family that depends on him. Perhaps one reason the
writer pushes the limit is to avoid other responsibilities for a time. “I can’t possibly help you with your
homework tonight. I have to write. Your dad (brother, sister, friend) will need to help you this time.” If a
writer procrastinates too long, the action might prove crazymaking for his editor and others at the publishing
firm who have their own responsibilities regarding the manuscript.
As you can see, acting as a crazymaker is a form of self-sabotage. Crazymakers create drama in not only
others’ lives, but their own. “Keep the drama on the page,” Cameron advises.
How can we avoid acting as our own crazymakers?
Facing fears. Remember, the reason we invite crazymakers—and our own crazymaker actions—into
our lives is to avoid going to the page. The first thing to do when tempted to act like a crazymaker is to ask
why you’re afraid to face the page. Maybe the book is a new direction for your writing, and even if it’s a direction
you’re eager to travel, you fear you haven’t the skill to pull it off. Maybe you don’t know how to
start the next scene, or even know where you want the next scene to take your characters. Maybe you just
wish you could take a day off from writing, so you create drama in your personal life to make that happen –
and then blame the people around you instead of your fear. Whatever the fear, face it, deal with it, and
move into the writing instead of into crazymaker actions.
Schedule. A writing schedule establishes a sense of order, a path in the midst of life’s unending chaos. It
means we’ve committed to writing during a set time, usually daily. Our conscious and subconscious know
this. Our family and friends come to know this, sometimes grudgingly, because it gives us a reason to say,
“I’d love to help you out, but I can’t right now. This is my writing time.” If we keep our schedule, we’re less
apt to write the last third of the book feeling like a zombie from lack of sleep, or to shirk our duties to our
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