Writers Aren’t Insane, We’re “Disinhibited”

I’m really looking forward to meeting new people at the conference this weekend. It’s a networking event, and that means we’ll be sizing each other up left and right. Writers constantly try to connect the dots and guess at others’ motivations, and other writers provide a fascinating slice of humanity. We spend so much time up in our heads that we can forget what’s expected of us here in the real world. To some degree, we forget to come back to ‘reality’ at all. It helps us question and consider other possibilities.

In order to create really meaningful work, writers learn to suspend themselves between worlds, harvesting intensity from minutiae.  We do it in dozens of different ways; insisting on certain music, losing sleep over metaphysics, wearing strange clothes, filling our homes with bladed weapons or drinking soup from wine glasses.

Most people don’t do this. Most people don’t get us, and write us off as strange or too hard to relate to.

This article talks a bit about the fine line between creatives and psychopaths, and mentioned something called “cognitive disinhibition.” Cognitive disinhibition occurs when we’re unable to ignore irrelevant or extraneous information. The inability to ignore those details, coupled with a spoonful of intellect, helps us connect dozens of unrelated dots — from plot construction to new inspiration from amalgamated ideas!

Cognitive disinhibition is nothing to be afraid of. The ideas we extrapolate and chase after are as important as the butterflies that kids chase through meadows. Every butterfly is a concept, a character, a line of poetry. Don’t be discouraged if people look at you like you’re crazy. If they could see the butterflies, they’d chase them too.


Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.”
— Ray Bradbury

“A specialty of martial arts is to see that which is far away closely; and that which is nearby from a distance.
In martial arts it is important to be aware of opponents’ swords and yet not look at the opponents’ swords at all.
This takes work
— Miyamoto Musashi


11 thoughts on “Writers Aren’t Insane, We’re “Disinhibited”

  1. vonzex

    Completely agree. We writers are a strange bunch. Having gone to a fair few writer’s conferences, the social skills are well and truly lacking. It makes me wonder how some authors write realistic dialogue and relatable characters when they live as isolated hermits.

    1. Setsu Post author

      A lot of it is nerves, I’m sure. Anytime we have an expectation that we “must meet and impress others” it’s difficult to stay relaxed and open. Have you been to many conferences? Have you blogged about it, or have any tips and stories to share?

  2. deborahbrasket

    Great post–spoke to me on so many levels. First, living in our heads that it’s hard to relate with what’s going on outside ourselves. So true, and yet me also sometimes can see what others miss, and connect things that hadn’t appeared connected, as you mention later on. We probably “see” what’s going on outside of ourselves very well, just “differently” than most people, so it seems like we’re missing obvious things. And yet, to get a whole group of us together in a room, it seems as if we’d be tripping all over each other. I like the butterfly image. “Chasing butterflies”–isn’t that the definition of crazy?

    1. Setsu Post author

      It depends, you know? Last summer I saw a six-year-old kid running and jumping and diving all around the playground. Then he stood, whirled, and stabbed his finger toward the base of the slide. “That spaceship isn’t broken!” he shouted. He had such conviction that I wanted to rally and go help with repairs. I felt like I could see what he saw — that’s the goal of storytelling!

  3. www.laurensapala.com

    Oh thank GOD for this post. I struggle with this CONSTANTLY. Some days I’m like, “All is well, I’m just highly creative,” and other days I’m convinced I’m a psychopath. I will revisit this post in the future for sure when I’m having one of the psychopath days 😉

  4. toconnell88

    I try not to examine myself too closely for fear I might diagnose a personality disorder or three. But, to riff on Bradbury’s quote, I feel like it’s normal that’s relative. As long as I’m happy and can satisfactorily coexist with others, then I don’t really care if others perceive something abnormal about me.

    Great post, though. I think it’s no small coincidence that most of the great writers I admire had dysfunctional personal lives.

  5. Pingback: Friday Link Pack 02/14/14 | Write-Brained Ramblings

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