There is a fine line between creativity and clinical pathology. I can say this with some conviction as I dated a psychologist in years gone by and he knew about these things. The whole topic came up one day as I was readying myself to sally forth to find a nice coffee pub that would keep me supplied with caffeine and sugar while I casually wrote a best-selling novel before lunch (one can dream, can’t they?).
As I said my good-byes, I flippantly remarked, “I’m off to play with my imaginary friends.” The look on his face was a Kodak moment, I can tell you that. And it stopped me in my tracks. “What?” I asked, not seeing anything alarming or unusual in the repartee up to that point.
“You do know,” he answered sounding rather serious, “that to many of my colleagues you would be an annuity.”
“Hey, look on the bright side,” I parried. “With me you don’t have to choose between business and pleasure.” Then I turned serious myself. “Fix whatever you can. God knows, I need it, but don’t mess with this.” I handed him a copy of my novel, Wanna Get Lucky? He read the book and understood I needed a bit of crazy to do what I do.
However, he had a point.
Where does imaginary stop and reality reinsert itself? I spend my days (and sometimes my nights, and time in the gym and in the shower…) in a world I created, interacting with people who don’t exist, being someone I am not. And, because I’m writing a series, I do it day after day, week after week, ad nauseum.
My books are set in Vegas, my home, at the Babylon, a fictional mega-resort on the Strip. I can tell you exactly what the Babylon looks like, all its nooks and crannies, the smells, the sounds…all of it. But it isn’t real. Except to me. When I close my eyes. I can see the marble and the mosaics of the lobby, the indoor ski hill, the brass sconces and the tented fabric in bright colors, the entrance to the shops, the dark maw of the casino, beckoning…
And the characters! I can remember one day, a particularly lonely one at the height of the angst over the dissolution of my marriage, when the words flowed, the story sang and I spent all day with Lucky and Teddie and the rest of my fictional friends. As the workday at the Babylon wound down and it was time to sleep, some forgotten bit of real-world unpleasantness jarred me back to reality. To this day I can remember that feeling of such sadness, such loneliness that my imagined world wasn’t my reality and I would never know Lucky, Teddie, and the rest of the gang as individuals separate and apart from me.
I know this sounds nuts.
But it’s a craziness I share with some pretty high-fallutin’ writers. Someone once asked P.D. James how she comes up with her stories and she responded with something to the effect that she simply steps into the room with her characters and writes down what they say. I am so there.
Perhaps that’s why I write. And why we all read. For those moments in time spent steeped in the magic between the covers of a book, we all let go of our own lives and experience another. We meet new people, become invested in their stories much as we do with our real friends. Perhaps we learn something. Or we have an adventure we couldn’t really have because life is so much more constrained than imagination.
So I will read. And I will write. And if I fall into the abyss where the line between what is real and what is not begins to blur, don’t pull me back. I like it there. Care to join me?