Are Artists Still Allowed to Be Neurotic?

This is Jamie Raintree’s last post with us. Please make sure you thank her for all the great wisdom she has shared and wish her best of luck on her future endeavors!

There’s this ongoing joke in the writing community: that writers are all a little bit crazy. We talk to imaginary people, have unusual habits and rituals for ensuring a good day’s work, and we’re often workaholics to the point that it would be perfectly expected to find us hiding in the bathroom with a laptop. Our spouses wouldn’t blink an eye.

The truth is that we’re pretty normal. We have families that we clean up after and shuttle around and love. We have jobs we clock in and out of and do our best to stay present for, even though it isn’t our passion. We search Pinterest for fast, easy, healthy dinners for less than $10, 5 ingredients, and 30 minutes. And we struggle each day to be the best parent, spouse, employee, friend, sibling, and child we can be. And yet, we “like” every single one of those artist-crazy memes on Facebook.

Because there’s a truth at the heart of it. We are a little crazy…or at least we wish we were allowed to be.

CREATIVES HAVE TO BE A LITTLE CRAZY

Think of any great artist in history and you’re bound to have heard some stories. Many of them have had drinking problems, odd sleep/work schedules, social awkwardness, mistresses. I won’t say who, but someone even cut off his own ear. In previous centuries, artists were known for being moody, eccentric, neurotic, socially awkward, and since the beginning of time, this has been understood. 

These days, though, we’ve worked so hard to appear normal that it’s become expected that we cover up those eccentricities. Different is shunned. Not showing up to a friend’s party because you’re allergic to small talk is considered a hate crime. Holing up for some much needed alone time is labeled depression. What “normal” people don’t realize is that our real label is “writer” and to reach that place inside ourselves where creativity comes from, we have to let go of reality a bit and let the crazy take over.

ACCEPTING YOUR NEUROSES

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten tired of hiding my crazy. It’s too much work, and it feels like a constant assault on my system. It’s hard enough to wrangle myself into the chair without having to defend it to others. I’ve stopped allowing myself to feel bad for being different and instead started to help those around me understand what it means to be an artist, to need lots of time to myself, and to struggle with the modern expectations of wives and mothers. I’ve learned to say the words “I’m sorry” when I can’t be what other people need me to be without actually feeling guilt for being who I am.

I think accepting our own craziness is the first step to truly becoming our art. We have just as much right as Virginia Woolf or F. Scott Fitzgerald to protect that part of ourselves where the creativity comes from. Our art is just as important. Our inner artist is just as important. So how do we learn to accept that crazy part of ourselves? 

How do we help others understand what makes us different? Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Carry a notebook around with you and record your thoughts. We spend most of our days dropping kids off, picking them up, grocery shopping, and sitting in meetings. But you don’t have to relegate writing to “writing time.” Be a writer all day, one sentence at a time, one thought at a time.
  • Along those same lines, journal. A big part of being a writer is trying to understand the world around you, so why not start with yourself. Journaling is a great way to learn more about yourself and start to accept it. If you want others around you to accept you for who you are, it starts with you.
  • Use the term “introvert.” Thank goodness for Facebook and the thousands of introvert memes. Now that everyone is familiar with the term, they are much more understanding about our need for a little extra time and space. It’s a shorthand way of telling people why your social skills may be wanting.
  • As I said before, apologize. You don’t have to apologize for who you are and you don’t have to feel guilty but you can say you’re sorry that cutting jello into clovers for your daughter’s preschool St. Patrick’s Day party isn’t high on your priority list. Writer aside, we all have our fortes.
  • Explain it to the people closest to you and let them help you defend it. All my closest friends know how much I love them even if I suck at buying them birthday presents. I show them that with my words, probably more than most people in their lives. My husband knows that if we run errands all morning, I need to lock myself in our bedroom for an hour to decompress, and that if we go to a family party, he is the buffer between the busyness in my head and the busyness around us. The people who really love you will accept you for exactly who you are–neuroses and all.

Many times I’ve fantasized about living during a time when it was acceptable to be artist-crazy, or barring that, to live in a place where I didn’t have so many commitments and expectations of me. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at times. But if we can learn to love our crazy side and help our family and friends understand it, I think we can find a way to be old-fashioned artists in modern times.

Do you feel like you have a crazy side you have to keep hidden? How do the people around you feel about your unique traits?

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Jamie Raintree writes Women’s Fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

4 thoughts on “Are Artists Still Allowed to Be Neurotic?

  1. I agree with this one hundred percent. Growing up I was always the 'weird' one and it took a lot of time for me to accept that this was who I am and to stop apologizing for it. I think part of it is that I myself and many writers I know are what I call 'talkative introverts'–we're introverted, but we also have a lot of thoughts running through our heads that tend to spill out of our mouths. So people assume that we enjoy spending a lot of time with a lot of people when really it just drains us. I'm grateful to have finally found friends that accept every crazy side of me and also understand when I just need to take a break and hole up in my room away from everyone.

    Like

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