I promised I would talk about the insanity of the creative mind. First of all, it’s only insanity to the larger world out there because it’s not linear and doesn’t make sense to people who think inside a certain framework. Of course, I am pigeonholing by saying all writers and musicians are insane…
Not “that” kind of insane…the other kind.
Let me speak to the ones I have personally met, which is more than a few handfuls, basically around the West Coast. Of the musicians and writers I’ve met, I’ve noticed a theme. Largely, an intolerance for conformity. A different way of thinking that you have to be pretty open to understand, or at least open to being open to understanding. Most just don’t get it, unless they are it.
I’ll speak to one aspect of “crazy” pertinent to my own artistic mind.
Like many writers, I am prone to wild flights of fancy, or shall I just say fantasy. I have complete enactments in my head which I swear to god are real. I have lived entire lives through my imagination. I may be more crazy than most writers and musicians I know, frankly, but I can’t really say, because many of the musicians and writers I know are imbibing substances I am not imbibing. This affects things and makes it harder to assess what we’re working with here.
For example, I remember when I wanted to be a tattoo artist. This happened about three years ago. I’d been living a relatively dry, boring life in El Cerrito—a stark contrast to my four years in San Francisco where everything was always hopping and there was plenty to do, see and be—tending my grandparents garden, walking around hilly neighborhoods with ‘50s style ranch houses built in random formation around seemingly unplanned cul-de-sac loops. I could see San Francisco from the hills, on a non-cloudy day. Most days were pretty foggy. I looked out at the city and couldn’t believe once upon a time I’d been there and not where I was now standing.
I hadn’t gotten a new tattoo for over five years. I started thinking maybe I’d get a bird. I was getting some extra cash from freelancing, and I hadn’t had extra cash in years, having been either unemployed or sick for almost two. I decided to get one bird, on my stomach, by the left nautical star. I started drawing outlines with marker to figure out if this was really the one I wanted to get.
My husband–ever the restrained one–told me I should get four birds, starting from my stomach and spreading up my ribs over my shoulder. While walking around Oakland, I stumbled into a shop a friend had recommended and I found myself remembering how awesome it was to be tattooed and be in the central hub of a tattoo shop, seeing and being seen. I had found my peeps again.
Because I was so thrilled to be part of a hub, I started dreaming of permanently being part of that hub. What if I become a tattoo artist, I thought, not remembering much about the extensive apprenticeships many artists go through before they find a shop they like and all the drama that can happen behind the scenes, all the internal hierarchy and hoops and the fact you actually have to know how to draw.
I bought myself a sketch pad and fantasized about meeting all the latest and greatest big tattoo artists—getting tattooed just because I was so cool they couldn’t resist adding ink to my skin. I started drawing for the first time in years. I inhaled every tattoo picture book I could find, falling deep into the world of Kat Von D’s diary.
Yep…I thought I was pretty awesome. Not to hard to go from sketch pad to skin, right?
This can’t be that hard, I thought, being a tattoo artist. Meanwhile, I started asking my tattoo artist questions about how he got started. I learned he’d started around my age and had had a hard time getting an apprenticeship where he wanted—people gave him shit. He had to earn his respect over time, just like in many other trades, except this was a bunch of artists with their own devil-may-care rules and proprieties.
I walked around for a few weeks, excited by the prospects and what I knew was decidedly my destiny. Then I checked out a couple more books by tattoo artists and started reading. I read about tattooing grapefruits and your own skin for the first time, about all the tricks your shop mates can play on you in the beginning, about how hard it is to learn to ink skin and how you often have to experiment on your friends first.
I read about crazy people and hard work and drawing, drawing, drawing. I read about a man who tattooed his wife until the day he died. I read about a girl who got in with bad boys and became tattooed head to toe before becoming a tattoo artist herself in Montana. I read about a guy who owned a late-night shop in Portland. I read the history of a local celebrity tattoo artist. I fantasized about being on their level, even though I was already 29 years old and hadn’t drawn much in my life at all since I was 11. My sketch book drawing by this time filled about two entire pages. Roses, and a day of the dead skull.
Then, as quickly as the desire to be a tattoo artist came, it was gone.
I’ve had the same flights of fantasy with other things—SEO marketer, professional vagabonder, National Geographic photographer, acupuncturist, doctor, chef, nutritionist, college-level creative writing teacher. One thing has stuck, however, and that is the title of writer/musician. No matter what wild flights of fantasy I have about other things, I keep creating stuff. Hell, I think my imagination is what keeps me able to write about things—tell stories and put myself in other people’s shoes. It makes shit interesting. Because I’ve been there in my head I can pretend I know what I’m talking about and actually believe I do.
I guess that doesn’t illustrate me as crazy, only as having an extensive imagination. When I picture something I AM it for a while; I become it. It seems inevitable. And then as quickly as I decide that this is my reality, it’s gone: I no longer care about it at all.
So far, since the separation started happening, I’ve lived in Baja, traveled to Jamaica to teach music to children, moved into my friend’s empty room in England, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, relocated to Seattle, been flown on an assignment to Boston and New York City, gone on a tour with my music…
Fantasy is what’s keeping me functioning at this point. Fantasy is what mires me in the sane, because without fantasy, I would surely go left. Far left.