mind of a writer, part 5

All Mad Here

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

If you’re writing fiction–of any variety, really–there’s a good chance you’re a little bit crazy. I mean, I’m referencing the musings of a talking cat to backup my claim. What does that tell you?

Personally, I think one of the key elements of being a good fiction writer is embracing the insanity. The best fiction I’ve encountered gave me the sense that the author had unleashed him/herself during the writing process. Ideas that a sane person might have shelved became centerpieces. That’s a daring sort of fiction to write, and those who pride themselves on being proper aren’t likely to come anywhere close.

There are limits, of course. You have to tether your insanity to reality, but you can give it a long leash. It’s easy to see how that holds true for fantasy, sci-fi and horror, but it’s true for all kinds of tales. I’m reminded of the final scene of The Grapes of Wrath in which we see an adult woman breast feeding an adult man who would otherwise die of starvation. There’s raw beauty in the act, and a subtle dose of madness. The first time I read it, I recoiled. Babies drink from breasts. Grown men do not. The scene made me uncomfortable, even as I recognized the kindness being shown.

That’s damn fine writing.

Such brazen devotion to one’s fiction requires the setting to the side of a great many social filters. Writers can’t be overly concerned with propriety. Life’s not proper. If fiction is going to feel real in any way, it can’t be, either. To get to that mental place you have to allow whatever madness lurks within, be it faint or forthright, to make its way to the surface.

When you sit down to write, set your mind free. You have the mind of a writer. It will go to some odd places. Let it. Follow it. Write whatever you find in those cubbies and hideaways. Resist the urge to censor yourself, instead fearlessly letting the madness shine through. Crazy as it sounds, that’s where some of your best fiction lies waiting.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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