Tag Archives: genius

Death and Transformation in the Writing Process

Without Lauren, there would be no Setsu. This is something she wrote many years ago offline that I re-read just hours before hearing about Robin Williams’ death. It was strange to feel so overcome by loss for someone I had never met; but in a way, we have. His sincerity in each of his roles is what made them real, and what made me trust him. His portrayals in Baron Munchausen, Hook, The Birdcage, The Fisher King and What Dreams May Come will always stick out in my mind.

What a legacy of outrageous brilliance, laughter, and above all, sincerity. He was an insane hurricane — from the crazed wild winds down to the last cold, lonely droplet.

And now, Lauren’s thoughts on death and writing.

Everyone fears death to some degree. In our culture, we normally view death not just as an ending, but as the ending to all endings. Imprisonment in a black hole from which there is no escape. We usually see change in a similar vein, dying on a smaller scale—a little death to which we’re dragged kicking and screaming. Either way we perceive it as the same thing: A decision we don’t get to make that gives us no way out.

But there are belief systems existing out there that don’t consider death to be negative. One alternative is to look at death the way it’s portrayed in a stack of Tarot cards, not as a cut off point where consciousness ceases to be, but as a crossroads where transformation is born. True transformation is part of the natural cycle of the universe: Every ending leads to another beginning. It’s also about moving from the known into the unknown. But dying hurts, no matter how you do it. Change is painful…whether it’s sudden or slow. When you’re caught in the period of transition it can feel like you’ve been cast adrift. Sometimes there’s nothing more uncomfortable than feeling stuck in that waiting in-between state.

As writers, Death as Transformation is an irreplaceable instrument of our craft. It is an incomparable experience that infuses inspiration into our life, and our work. To bring paper and ink to its knees we must be brave enough to shed our familiar skin. Bold enough to emerge naked into the world again, waiting for our new carapace to crystallize and our wings to unfold. Releasing ourselves newly born into a whole new element, we must leave the well-worn husk behind. Push yourself to the precipice and bust out of that shell! Stop crawling forward in your writing—FLY.

Thank you Lauren. Thank you Robin. Thank you to everyone brave enough to walk around without armor — risking it all to make the world a little more magical.

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.”
—Cherrie Moraga

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.”
—Tom Stoppard

“Genius is not a gift but the way out one invents in desperate cases.”
—Jean-Paul Sartre



Robin Williams, “What Dreams May Come”


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