I grew up believing there was an inevitable link between creativity and mental illness. I’ve since learned that many mentally unstable folks are bone dry when it comes to creative juice. On the flip side, lots of highly creative individuals are as stable as the Brady Bunch parents.
Obviously, while there are many common factors among creative types, there are also vast differences. Surely these differences evolve not only from genetics, but also from our environment, and the level of support we experience growing up.
I suppose this can all be said of mental health, in general.
But now we’re focusing on creativity. What sparks and fuels it? How do we define it and where does it come from? One could spend years studying and discussing these fascinating questions. If I could, I’d surround myself daily with smart, creative individuals. We’d sit around with Martinis, chatting about all the strange and wonderful topics that fill our heads with ideas. Then we’d discuss how the “filling” process happens and what we’ll do with it.
Who knows, if I were given more than one life or a do over, maybe I’d go to art school or study creative writing. Maybe I’d leave my hometown at 18, and head to the Big Apple with a dollar in my pocket. Maybe I’d crash and burn a million times.
Maybe I’d be dead by now.
We only have one life; I don’t regret the path mine has taken. Although I do believe it’s never too late, I can’t simply drop everything and head to New York. I can’t camp out in a University art lobby chatting with fellow artists and art professors nor can I run off to Paris, drink wine all day, and contemplate life and art. It’s ironic. Now that I have a few years behind me, the depth and breath of my questions far outshine what I focused on when I had more time and opportunity. Life is funny that way. Too bad we can’t have more than one.
But in reality it is never too late so I’m bringing creative folks to Aberration Nation. I intend to pick their brains and dissect their souls as best I can.
To kick off this new Aberration Nation focus, my first guest is wildly popular fantasy novelist and gaming guru Margaret Weis. In getting to know Margaret a bit, it’s clear that she’s highly focused and has consistently maintained unflappable dedication to her amazing imagination. Her responses are power punches that provide a no-fluff look at what it takes to succeed in a creative field.
I grew up in a household where science fiction and fantasy books, games, etc. were constantly on hand and under discussion. I didn’t have to read the books my brother read. His recall was so precise and detailed that he could describe entire books as if I were reading them myself. In fact, he was an obsessive, highly skilled Dungeons & Dragon player, and propagated its success throughout our tri-state area during the early ’80s. For years, his room was a D& D cave filled with sharp, imaginative teenage boys. At a time when fantasy, roll playing games were a new concept, he created a complex fantasy game of his own with some of his closest friends (while still in high school).
When I told my brother that I had a connection to Margaret Weis, his eyes lit up like flying saucers while dragon-like smoke puffed out both ears. Of course, he knew who she was! She’s been one of his heroes for years, and now she’s one of mine.
I often wonder if most highly creative people are born knowing what they want to do. Have you always wanted to be a writer or was it a specific creative interest that evolved over time?
I have always been a story-teller. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher put me in the front of the class to tell stories during nap time. I have always loved reading books and creating worlds and characters in my head. I guess writing them down was an extension! Author Gary Paulsen says that authors are the ancient ones who put on the tiger skins and danced around the fire telling tales.
Do you have other creative interests, and if so, what are they?
I participate in flyball with my dogs. Not sure if that’s creative, but it’s a lot of fun!
I don’t think we’re that much different from most people. Maybe a little crazy . . .:)
Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life’s aberrations, or both?
I think my love of writing has made it difficult for me to have relationships. I’ve been divorced twice. I think it’s hard being married to a writer. For me, at least, the writing always came first.
Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you’ve dealt with it?
I don’t think my parents ever truly understood it, but they always supported me. How many other parents would let their kid major in creative writing in college?!
I often wonder, “Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?” Have you ever wondered about this? In a world filled with creative people and people who think they’re creative, how were you able to distinguish yourself and your talent despite any doubts along the way?
I never really thought about it. I just do what I love.
Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. How have you coped with disappointments?
I just keep writing.
I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of thought processes. How would you describe your creative process? How does your mind work?
Well, I have the ability to live in an imaginary world. I walk around grocery stores holding conversations with imaginary people. I dream about my characters. Some people would probably suggest I should be locked up!:)
Obsessive. Driven. Willingness to sacrifice.
Many creative people have tons of ideas but never follow through. I’m not sure if it’s because they lack drive, organization, or focus. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
If you want to be a writer you will write because that’s what you love to do best in the world. If not, you won’t.
Watch a trailer for Margaret and Tracey Hickman’s novel, Bones of the Dragon: