Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Diagnosis: A Creative Mind


Previously Posted on the Saroyan's Ghost Blog

One day, one of my readers asked me, “How did you come up with this story?”

I told them, “A little girl came up to me and whispered in my ear, ‘Tell them my story.’ Her name was Sandy Clancy.”

“But Sandy Clancy was a character in the story?!” the reader gasped. “Is she real?”

“No, my characters talk to me.”

Ray Bradbury suffers from the same thing I do: a creative mind. I remember going to UCLA last year and Bradbury telling me that his characters came up to him and told him to write down their story in Fahrenheit 451. I was amazed to hear this, because now I knew I wasn’t alone. My characters come up to me all the time while I’m on the computer.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not take any drugs or hallucinate.

I see my characters without the need of anything but my mind’s eye.

They tell me the story as I write it; I don’t have it planned out ahead of time. I am as much a reader as you are now. These characters pop out of nowhere. Sandy, the character the reader asked me about, came up to me and said, “I have to tell you something that happened to me. Please, I want to share it with other people, but they won’t listen. Can you be my voice?”

And I started to write about Sandy.

Sandy told me about the dreams she was having, recurring nightmares of a dark man chasing her.

I wrote them down.

The conversation she had with her dad—I scratched it on a notepad. I wrote all her adventures down on those pages.

Characters sometimes don’t just pop into my mind, but images, too.

An accident.

Two people dancing.

A girl waving good-bye.

Anything is possible, but that’s just a piece of the mural that I create. Those images add up to the big picture that becomes my story. My brain just functions differently, I guess.

I saw a girl the other day waving at no one (at least from my point of view) and that image stuck in my mind. Why was she there? To whom was she saying goodbye? I didn’t know, so I invented a story based on the situation. Before I knew it, I started writing down a story entitled, “The Final Goodbye,” about an urban legend where a person, right before he dies, sees this little girl known as the Goodbye Girl.

Sometimes a creative mind doesn’t have as many advantages as you might think. I stay up some nights thinking about the worlds I create just by typing words on a page. The characters do not know when to call it quits.

Sandy tugged at my shirt. “You’ve got to finish my story. You’ve just got to.”

“Let me sleep. I’ll write another chapter tomorrow.”

“You promise?”

“Promise.” She let go of my shirt and disappeared.

I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling. I see another character staring back at me. It is Monte. He is a character I had already written about last year in a story called “Rules to Live By.”

“What is it?” I ask him.

“Can you rewrite my story?” He has his jacket hanging by two fingers on his shoulder. Inside the jacket is a list of rules that he has broken, rules that show him his friends and enemies, rules he tries to live by.

“Why?” I ask.

“You’ve grown as a writer, Vatche. My story has grown, as well. I just remembered some things that I forgot to tell you to write down. Please come back with me to Hillsworth High.”

“Ok,” I tell him as I put my hand over my eyes. “You’ll be after Sandy.”

“Thanks, see ya later.”

Then another character taps me on the shoulder.

“What is it?” I say, annoyed. “Jeez, can’t you guys let me sleep?” I peek out of the gaps between my fingers. There is a line of people waiting to talk to me. I know at that moment that I suffer from a sort of disease. My mom, the doctor in the family, calls it the disease of a creative mind.

Day and night, I write down stories, characters, and images: my calculus book, literature book, assignment book, hands, arms, and post-its, all covered in notes for stories. I have to store the ideas somewhere and keep them safe. I begin ripping out the pages, one by one, and make an idea book. There, in that book, they will stay until the time is right, until I am ready to tell their stories.

By the way, Sandy’s been tugging at my shirt for a while. She wants to say, “Hi.”

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