I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.
—Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”
Last October, I posted an article on pandemic fatigue, about how 2020 had been exhausting.
Ha ha ha! The pandemic was only seven or eight months old by then! Who’da thunk it?
I must be some sort of optimist at heart, though, because I never imagined we’d still be in the middle of this crap another year later. Good grief.
So this week I decided to pose a question to my fellow writers and readers as I wrap up my “Writer Problems” series with part 10:
How often do you question your sanity?
The One-Eyed King
There’s an old proverb that reads, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” At times like ours, those of us who really feel like we’re a little off need only look around to realize how much saner we are than many, many others. It’s truly remarkable.
As an artist, I’ve been profoundly aware for a long time how weird, or strange, I am to others. Some of that comes from conversations, especially about dreams. Mine are in color, with dialogue—the whole works.
Recently I recalled a dream I had as a young boy. I was at an airport in the dream, only I was not inside but on the tarmac. Well, under the tarmac, actually: a flat, transparent tarmac with red and blue lines intersecting it, like one of those anatomical transparency sheets of the human circulatory system in an old science book. I gazed up from beneath this tarmac at the planes overhead. There may have been dinosaurs.
And that was before I’d ever even taken a drink or drug.
I recalled this dream while recounting a more recent dream to my wife, who is much closer to what I’d call a “normal” person than myself. The recent dream involved my mother and I chasing cockroaches. I know there was some other wacky stuff in there, but it doesn’t make much difference that I can’t remember it. All my dreams are surreal, and usually disturbing to at least some degree.
Tortured Artists and Other Myths
Recording artist Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco has often stated he dislikes the persona of the tortured artist. Says Tweedy, “I think artists create in spite of suffering.” In other words, romancing the idea of a crazy or tortured artist is wrong, even dangerous.
I get where Tweedy is coming from. Although I’m far happier today than I was as my high school’s Class Poet, or while wringing a poetry collection out of myself for a Master’s thesis, I think I was able to create all my best work in spite of life’s slings and arrows.
And even though I’ve never claimed to be the picture of mental health, I feel like I’m better now than I’ve been during many times in the past. As a baseline, I simply acknowledge I’m not too tightly wound, and maybe that helps my art. It’s hard to be objective about it all.
Are you relatively sane? A little nuts? I’d love to hear your comments on this topic, or on the “Writer Problems” series as a whole, in the comments below.