“All poets are mad.” – English writer Robert Burton
Have you heard someone saying he or she has no filter? Well, that’s actually a real thing. According to those who study these things, we’re constantly filtering information, in different forms, even subconsciously through our senses, and being able to filter relevant from irrelevant data is often attributed to someone’s ability to focus and organize, i.e. Type A personalities.
If your filter is less than refined you’re creative, if you could have used a replacement filter back in 1985…your neighbors probably call you crazy behind your back. Just being honest here.
So it should come as no surprise that mood disorders and mental illness have run rampant in writers and artists throughout history. And today is no different.
Granted I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you for sure which of my clients have actually been clinical, versus those who are insanely difficult on their own accord.
Clinical garners you some leeway, lots of leeway in some circumstances, to say inappropriate things, make outrageous demands, refuse to leave a hotel room, or even think of yourself as an entirely different person at times.
But screaming at bookstore employees, insisting on a limo to drive you 6 blocks in NYC, saying you won’t get out of bed for less than Oprah, or calling yourself the next Rowling, Koontz, King or James, then you’re crazy, but on your own accord, there’s no hiding behind a diagnosis to explain why you’re terrible to be around and associate with.
And don’t get me wrong, I love creativity. I wouldn’t have a job if creative people didn’t exist and I’d like to think I’m creative in my own way. And I can totally appreciate that some of our best in history have been clinical; Hemingway, Dickens, Woolf and of course Poe. The emotional and mental burdens they bore in conjunction with their talent is hard to fathom.
But the crazies that jump on the entitlement bandwagon make me want to take hostages.
You published a book, you did not save puppies from a burning building. You got a signing event, you did not feed a village for a year. You got a glowing New York Times review, you did not cure cancer.
Do you see the difference?
So a caution to authors big and small, keep the crazy in check. Don’t diminish what honestly crazy people have had to endure. Remember you’re still human, there will always be people who are more famous than you, and what did my mother always say, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Publishers, editors, publicists, reviewers, and readers – we’re all flies.
Give us some honey.