“Bring us into your world. What is something about your work (past or present) that outsiders typically don’t understand? It can be something required by the job, something that happens on the job, something you feel about the job—but whatever it is, do not exceed 800 words.”
It’s happened to all of us. You’re on the subway, a bus, the train, or a plane, and some stranger sits down next to you and starts talking. If you’re lucky, they’re talking to you about something you like. If you’re unlucky, they’re talking to themselves about something entirely unintelligible or uninteresting or both.
I’m that person.
I hear voices in my head. I talk with imaginary people. They answer back. We get to know each other. Some of them are funny, some are scary, and some are just boring as all get out.
I get paid to do this crazy stuff. Not a lot, but enough to buy groceries and dog food.
“What a world we live in,” you’re thinking to yourself. “Lunatics get paid to be crazy.”
That just can’t be news to you. Turn on the television. Open a newspaper. Lunatics are getting paid to do all sorts of things. Take a look at the news from Congress. Uh huh. I see you nodding your head. Turn on a sports network. There are people on there being paid millions of dollars to try to give each other concussions. “But that’s different,” you say.
Well, it’s different because they get paid a lot more for fewer hours of work than this lunatic, but that’s the only difference I see.
“So,” you ask yourself, “what can I do that’s crazy enough to get paid for it?”
I’ll allow a dramatic pause; one just long enough to make you feel uncomfortable as you realize you’ve asked a lunatic how to be a little crazy for money.
You can write. That’s what I do. I write novels. Novels with crazy characters. One has a gay newspaper columnist falling in love with a straight cowboy Marine with a dog trying to play matchmaker. Another novel takes place on the other side of the rainbow bridge: dog heaven.
“That’s just crazy talk.”
Yup. That’s what it is. But you know what? Lunacy isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, most of the best things in your life have come from the minds of people who wore the label “crazy.”
Think about it. Who in their right mind would look for an alternative to candles and gas lamps? Those worked just fine. What sort of a person would imagine flying in the air? Not anybody with both feet firmly planted on the ground. What kind of fool would invent the printing press when more than 90% of the population couldn’t read? And you want to talk really crazy? What about those science fiction writers who dreamed of flying to the moon and other planets, and the people who were inspired by such fiction to pursue exactly that? I mean, that’s like lunacy squared.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. We lunatics may not be paid much in money, but we’re rich in satisfaction. We revel in the notion that we’ve planted a little of our craziness in other people’s brains. We glory in the thought that that novel, that painting, that idea might transform a life or a civilization. It might let two people of different races or different sexes or different income levels or even different nations come a little closer to understanding each other. Maybe even like each other.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Think about that for a second. Then consider your contempt and disregard for the crazy people of the world. Think about how proud you are of being a normal person. Then try to justify in your mind the cost to the world of your alleged normalcy. That idea you had for a movie? It might have prevented a war. That silly book you never wrote? It could have transformed an entire generation. That piece of music you hear in your head? It might have lifted a singer out of poverty and into stardom. That career change from successful businessman to impoverished potter? It might have inspired a child to listen to his own crazy ideas.
So. I invite you into my world. My crazy, lunatic world. My little corner of the universe where I talk to imaginary characters and listen to what they have to say, and then I tell, in book form, those crazy imaginary people’s ideas to other less crazy, more normal people, in hopes of transmitting the lunacy and of making you believe, just for a moment, that the impossible might just be possible after all.
I can hear you thinking to yourself, “That’s just crazy.” Why, thank you. Yes, it is.
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