Film Courage: This may be an old wives’ tale about unhappy writers having more depth in which to write about, more in which to pull from? Whereas the happy writer is just scratching the surface and it might be too much of a movie of the week instead of something that pulls at your emotional core and you can put yourself in the character’s shoes? I don’t know, can we dispel this (that you have to be unhappy)?
Dr. Ken Atchity, Producer/Author: This is a famous dilemma that people have been talking about my whole lifetime. A book came out a few years ago called The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. It’s a very interesting book and it basically says that writers should fear therapy because it might therapize, it might take away their angst from which came all their brilliant ideas. And it’s simply not true because there are just too many examples of productive writers who have plenty of angst and one of my favorite examples is Stephen King who published in my magazine Dreamworks.
We sent out a letter to artists all over the world including him.
Could you please tell us whether dreams have any influence on your creativity and if so, give us an example of a dream and a creative work that came from it?
So Fellini sent us a cartoon that he dreamed in the middle of the night that led to 8 1/2 (his movie) and we got great stuff from all kinds of people. And Stephen King six months later after everyone else sent us a very short letter and said:
This is my constant nightmare. I am sitting alone in the attic typing away and a little door in the floor of the attic opens and a hideous face comes out of the floor and I start typing as fast as I can because the faster I type the more the door closes and if I slow down the face keeps coming out.
And then he says:
Does that count?
And it’s an example of what you’re talking about because he has plenty of angst going on. He has plenty of terror and fear and dark things in some of his most brilliant work like the SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE SHINING. And he’s not an unhappy writer. He knows that he needs to put the time in every day and he’s figured it out and he’s prolific and so on.
So there are just too many examples of balanced writers, let’s call them mentally balanced writers. One of my favorite statements from the world of art is Salvador Dali who said The difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad. And I love that because only an artist who knows how close sanity he is to insanity knows what that means. Like he’s one of those mad men who is not mad. Whereas a lot of other mad men are mad. And okay, they kill themselves or they kill somebody else.
And so it’s all about knowing yourself, it’s all about how your mind works and proving it and testing it until you look back and you go My gosh I’ve written all these books. I’ve got all these things going on. And I don’t think I’m crazy and on the other hand I don’t think I’m sane either. It’s like you’ve just figured it out and it doesn’t mean that you’re not having dark spells. It’s just that you kind of look at your dark spells from the outside instead of from the inside.
It’s very common in meditation and yoga to understand that you can either be inside yourself all the time and drive yourself crazy by letting your mind run it (what’s going on). Or you can stay above your mind by all these thoughts going by and all this stuff and recognize that you (the one looking) is in charge, not all of the thoughts.
And A Writer’s Time has all these theories about how the creative mind works which is what I call the managing editor, looking at the fight going on inside your mind and realizing that this can be controlled if you trick the two sides of the mind and force them to work together. That’s kind of what it’s all about to become happy and productive at the same time and it seems to work for a lot of people.
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