IF Writers got medals for creative courage, I’d have received one this week, for surviving my summer with a crazymaker.
It was the author of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron, who introduced me to the playful poison of crazymakers.
These are the chaotic spirits who swan into town and demand three nights on your sofa bed, just as you’re starting that dream job and need calm nights at home with your loved ones to be at your best.
Or the drama queens who recruit you into their grand schemes, but won’t answer the call to action when you suggest they lead the way.
My latest crazymaker arrived on the scene just as I was ascending the Everest of playwriting – executing the latest draft of a ten-year project.
It had been years since I’d had a crazy around my neck, and I didn’t see it coming. Time for a reminder about how to spot ’em.
Crazymaking clue: If someone asks for too much information at first meeting, they’re a crazymaker.
We met through writing, theirs so beautifully expressed that I decided the person behind it was worth meeting. Apart from the slightest scent of networking at our first meeting on neutral territory, and their propensity for over-apologetic texts, all seemed well.
We staffed the same project from different territories, me and my latest crazymaker. I’d started a lot earlier, enjoyed the exploration and the calm group achievement, but when they began, so too did the turbulence.
Crazymaking writers can present as brilliant communicators, until they meet their equals.
Then, despite a lifetime working with words, they profess a sudden inability to interpret emails when they just don’t like their contents.
Next, they command that phone calls and meetings are the only way to have dealings with them, yet they’ll rarely pick up the phone and instigate a conversation.
Prolific use of “I did this” manifests in their expression of group projects, leaving others to amend to the truth of: “We”.
They have no time for a project’s first draft, but want to change everything once it’s done.
And they demand to be paid, even when everyone else is volunteering.
My role was suddenly called off. It was the crazymaker who informed me. They’d swung the drama in another direction which benefited them.
Crazymaking clue: If someone on equal footing tells you what the status quo of your contribution is, they’re a crazymaker.
I write to a very strict schedule, every weekday. The world of my characters and their stories is my solace when turbulence hits in the ‘real world’ of group projects, day jobs and financial survival.
I have one foot in the economy, and one foot in art, so it’s a delight to dive into my creative space: an old desk on a breezy enclosed verandah, down a quiet street at one end of an invisible island.
Here, I can lose myself in a world I have spent many years making. Through loss, difficult choices, honesty with loved ones, ignoring bad advice and relying on my gut feelings, I have earned my creative space. Creative cards very close to my chest, I use my space wisely, and I protect it well.
Crazymaking clue: If they follow you into your creative space, they’re a crazymaker.
Retreating into your creative space can trigger a crazymaker’s attack.
Like a cat at the door, my crazymaker yowled for creative shelter and soul food, and worked on my sympathy buttons with well-rehearsed moves.
But I kept my head down and wrote, despite the storm brewing outside.
With sudden, pesky emails, harping on about work already done, the crazy cat tried to claw a hole through. I stomped and boarded up the breach.
A few days later, it returned and professed angrily that a phrase I had published caused the world pain, and, caring fool that I am, I bought the lie.
I hit ‘pause’ on my climb, and opened the door. Like a bear woken from hibernation, I growled: “Show me, where is this pain of yours?”
The cat mewed that it had none. I cross-examined it for signs of suffering, but there were no wounds offered for healing, and no grievances uttered for salvation.
Puss dodged solutions to its imaginary issues left and right, and made a crazy offer: now that it had disturbed me, this crazymaker wanted us to work together, and they would take care of everything.
Call me crazy, but I said: “Yes, I’ll collaborate with you, pussycat.”
My lie bought me peace.
I returned to the summit. I’ve walked that country so often I could get there blindfolded. At base camp, I was concerned the conditions up on the mountain were not as good as they had been before I came down, but I bravely set off.
I declined that easy, feline yowl of failure that I had at my disposal if I too were tempted to self destruct, and on a beautiful island day, later than planned, I reached the summit.
Crazymaking clue: If they start your association with an apologetic tone, which is gradually replaced by a suggestion that you need to apologise, they’re a crazymaker.
I deserve my medal because I’ve fought-off crazymakers before, but it’s taken years to have the strength of character to name one and hold it to account so speedily.
Far from my island, the crazymaker went silent (as they do); built boundaries of their own (about time); broke them with high drama (go figure); told the world that I’d destroyed them (so schoolyard); and sent me an email as though nothing had ever happened (seriously?).
Crazymaking clue: If you come to realise you’ve allowed a crazymaker into your life, you’ve been a bit crazy too.
© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.