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Not Your Usual Writing Advice

 

 

 

Recovering
from Crazy

“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?

Too often.

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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