Quite often I do things that make my wife question both my sanity and her judgment when it comes to selecting life-mates. When I get into a heavily creative mode (such as writing, illustrating or composing music,) I get into this little pocket of emotional instability that I’ve come to call the “Deepening.” I literally become a messy, bald pile of emotions so mercurial that I’ve been known to be silently writing and suddenly put my face down on the keyboard and cry for an hour. Then I lift my head up and write a thousand more words. It’s pretty intense.
Example; at one point I was writing about a particularly brutal period of my life so I literally took my computer and locked myself in my closet for three days. I cried, I railed and just emotionally destroyed myself for 72 hours, when I came out of it, I slept for two days. Another time I disappeared from my home for three days. I have no memory of where I went, but I do know that when I “came to” 30,000 words were in front of me and my bank account was almost empty.
The things I do and say and think deviate from the norm to such a degree, that I’ve had to come up with rather weird ways to keep the self-destructive aspects of my “Deepenings” in check. They don’t always work, but they’re usually good for a laugh. My wife has learned to enjoy them, or to just plain ignore them.
One of them, (I really will try to be terse about this method) is to place a small mirror on my desk. When I’m writing, I literally look in the mirror every now and again to see what my reflection has to say. I know it all happens in my imagination, but it’s so vivid I sometimes wonder if I have kind of a split personality, or at least my main personality has detached from me when I’m writing. I imagine “him” saying just some really blunt and jerkish things. Picture the Green Goblin with a shaved head (one of the Spiderman Willam DeFoe mirror scenes) just judging the hell out of me.
“Seriously? You’re going to use that word? Why don’t you just slam your stupid head on your laptop?”
“Sure idiot, people often use 20 words to describe a simplistic one-word concept. Tool.”
“Keep writing dick and fart jokes, I’m sure Peter Griffin needs a staff writer.”
“Did you read that last paragraph? I doubt I can eat half the amount that I want to vomit.”
“Seriously, break your fingers and go to sleep. You’ll accomplish more.”
Yeah, my alter ego is a bit of a jerk. I realize it really is me just being self-deprecating and stupid (possibly a tad insane).
Another method is what I’ve come to call the “Rubber Ducky Method”. (Programmers use something similar to this, but slightly less psychotic.) I keep a toy rubber ducky on my desk, and I literally have a conversation with the duck while writing.
Meet Mr. Peepers. He has been my writing partner for about 10 years running. Once in a great while, my daughter will steal him and I literally can’t write. She has a tendency to do this when I’m pacing around the house, at my most vulnerable point in a deepening. I ransack the house looking for it like a pissed-off DEA agent during a drug raid. When my wife inevitably asks me why I’m frantically turning tables over and muttering to myself, to which I usually bellow, “I’m looking for Mr. Peepers! Shut up and help me!”
Have you ever seen someone blankly blink for 10 minutes because their brain can’t process something you’ve said? Yeah, this happens often around my house when I write.
When I find him, I pick him up like I’m Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. The look of happiness on my face has been described by my wife as the look one receives when you “starve a man for a year, then give him a box of donuts and a turkey dinner.” I seriously have NO clue how the hell she puts up with me…
Side note, at one point a neighbor stood there at my screen door watching this process for 10 minutes, laughing hysterically when I finally found it. I had no clue she was there until I heard the laughter. My wife knew she was there the entire time and let her watch. Because she’s a bad, bad person… Sure, my house looked like Beirut, but I found Mr. Peepers.
Mr. Peepers and I have entire conversations about what I’m writing. Problem is, if you’re sitting near me, all you’re hearing (for obvious reasons) is my side of the conversation. Which is a good thing too, because the reason Mr. Peepers speaks is that he has the spirit of a former Oxford literature professor embedded in the plastic. He’s essentially a literate, didactic Chucky doll that squeaks with a thick British accent. (Again, I realize that it’s all in my head. Don’t call the authorities.) Our conversations are essentially like this:
Me: “I kind of enjoy the play on words in this paragraph.”
Mr. Peepers: “Quite. Though grammatically flawed, using those words is a decent trade-off to assure thematic consistency. Jolly good.”
Me: “Well, what would you do differently?”
Mr. Peepers: “Perhaps the phrasing could be altered. Perhaps [blah blah blah].”
Me: “That seems to flow a lot better. Thank you.”
Mr. Peepers: “Quite welcome, by the way you misspelled “favorite” wrong. You’re missing the ‘u’. ”
Me: “I told you once before, it’s a cultural thing, Mr. Peepers.”
Mr. Peepers: “Pardon me, but as long as we’re in a professional context, I prefer Doctor Peepers, if you please.”
Me: “I’ve never known a doctor that squeaks and takes on water through his butt before.”
“Dr.” Peepers: “Well, I never…”
It’s this back and forth that feeds my process, amuses my family and scares the absolute s**t out of my dog. Once during a “conversation” the hair on her back went up and she started searching the house for who I was talking to. She did this for 20 minutes before finally sitting down and auto-fellating.
My daughter thinks its a hoot too. She’ll steal the duck then start to run, then I start pretending to cry and she’ll give the duck back and hug me, laughing the entire time.
But, where Mr. Peepers, (Duck: *ahem*) excuse me, Herr Doktor Peepers really helps me is when I have a particular problem to figure out, like a thematic element that I feel I’m not quite getting across or some character I’m not addressing properly, I’ll ask him, “Do you mind if I spitball a few things past you?”
Provided he’s had his tea, he’s usually pretty eager to oblige. So I read to him the part that bothers me, and I’ll wait for it. I’ll read some more, still waiting. Then I catch it, that subtle change in his face.
He looks at the screen.
I look at the screen.
I know what he’s hinting at. He smiles. I smile. He just sits there with a satisfied grin on his face and I immediately know how to correct my problem. In a lot of ways, Mr. Peepers is a legitimate genius. The fact that his personality comes from me is a minor point. It’s a good thing that I have these checks in place, otherwise I’d just Ben Affleck all over the place.
Photos courtesy of author