Mania and the Creative Process

This is a sort of continuation to my post on depression and creativity. Mind you I said sort of. It’s kind of like going to a family reunion. They’re vaguely related, you know. But who gives a fuck why? Mania is the deceptive cousin, really. On the surface it seems too lovely to scorn. Energy and ambition and sheer speed. Florid prose abounds. But that really isn’t true. Not entirely, anyway. Mania is the Loki of your personality. Sure he seems like great fun, but I wouldn’t want to live with him for very long at a time. Even if Hiddleston does play him.

A lot of fast work is going to happen. One of the hallmarks of mania is a faster thought and speech pattern. And since writing is an extension of these two acts, the writing will happen just as quickly. And as such, more of it will happen in the amount of time that you normally carve out for your writing. And even better, you’ll want to spend more time writing. It isn’t impossible to write several thousand words a day while you’re manic. I believe my personal best was somewhere around 11,000 in about four or five hours. Which I was incredibly proud of at the time. And then I read it later. If meth itself could write a few chapters of a novel for me, I imagine that would be how it would go. Quickly, but not well.

But don’t get me wrong on one thing. Writing fast really is good. Fast drafting is the only way I manage to propel myself through that muddy first draft of a book. But sometimes that makes it a nightmare to edit later on. You wrote it with such speed that silly little fussy things escaped you. That’s alright. You can fix that later. Only your list of things to fix later gets longer. And longer. And longer. And after a certain point, you have to wonder if it’s smarter to just start over. Sometimes I think it is. I’ve done it at least once. But that big, beautiful epic first draft tells you where you can go with it. And where you probably shouldn’t.

You’ll take more risks. This translates into your writing as well. While writing it, your manic writing seems to be your best. And then you read it after the mania ends. And your beautiful, slightly experimental Great American Novel reads like the ramblings of a mad person. A thousand subplots, most of which go nowhere. Characters that make no sense for your story. Fantastic locations that aren’t properly reasoned out. Because why not add some fucking dragons to your story about an alien messiah? Maybe that was what happened to the writers of Man of Steel? That seems to be the only explanation I can come up with.

Once you get past the rambling, there really is some good shit to mania. You have to look at it that way, or you’ll go absolutely insane, and that would be a bit trite, wouldn’t it? A crazy writer. The world doesn’t need any more of those. One lovely upside is in the way that you perceive things when you’re manic. Colors are bright. Smells are strong. Touch is electric. Remember these things. You’ll have to write them down because mania does funny things to the memory, I’ve found. And based on some of the stupid shit I’ve done manic, that probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Not even close. But the senses are worth noting. They’re going to help you someday.

As a disclaimer, I ought to tell you that I wrote this post in a matter of about fifteen minutes. So the choice of topic is kind of unsurprising. I sort of suspect that mania is to blame for what we call the muse. What makes us write so passionately at times and eludes us at others. But it’s all a part of it, I suppose. And a part of a whole that makes up what we do and why we do it. So I suppose we should just take a line from Laura Marling and just be happy, our manic(s) and us. In other news: I’m off to work out, rearrange my bookshelves, and maybe bake a poundcake. In that order. Because who needs sleep, anyway?

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