The Kind of Crazy We Want

We said in a previous post, “Pick the idea that’s craziest.”

Nicolas Cage and Cher in “Moonstruck”

But what exactly do we mean by “crazy?”

Here’s what we DON’T mean:

We don’t mean pick a prospective project that’s ridiculous or absurd or so weird or personal or self-indulgent that there’s no chance of it finding an audience.

What we do mean is,

  Free your thinking from conventionality.

Don’t second-guess your potential readers, and especially don’t think down to them.

Don’t pick the idea you imagine they’ll like, or believe they’ll respond to.

Pick the idea you like, even if (especially if) it doesn’t seem commercial.

By “crazy,” we also mean

Pick an idea that seems beyond you.

Choose something that makes your palms sweat. When Charles Lindbergh told his friends in 1926 that he intended to fly the Atlantic solo, I’m sure no few responded, “Charlie, that’s crazy!”

That’s the kind of crazy we want.

That’s good-crazy.

That’s smart-crazy.

That’s bold-crazy, audacious-crazy, stretch-the-boundaries crazy.

Did you see the movie Moonstruck? There’s a great line in the script by John Patrick Shanley delivered by Nicolas Cage as “Ronnie Cammareri” to Cher as “Loretta Castorini.”

RONNIE

You’re gonna marry my brother? Why you wanna sell your life short? Playing it safe is just about the dangerous thing a woman like you can do.

Amen.

Work outside the lines.

Go for good-crazy.

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

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Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

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15 Comments

  1. Kim on July 24, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Amen to good-crazy.

    In my earliest days as a writer, I made the dire mistake of choosing to write a piece that I thought my readers would like, and respond well to, so that they would like me… yet what I wrote wasn’t even my truth. I’ve never been slammed harder for something I’ve written in my entire life. The feedback was wretched, and it crippled me for years. What a lesson it was, though… never forgotten, so never again.

    Writing takes guts.

    Thanks for showing up, Steven!

  2. Ryko on July 24, 2019 at 9:50 am

    I love this Steven. I remind myself daily to continue to feed that “crazy”, as long as the ideas are in alignment with my short and (crazy) long-term goals. Working outside of the lines is where the authentic magic happens.

  3. Julie on July 24, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Brilliant Steven!

  4. Gigi Blackshear on July 24, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Watched the Legend of Bagger Vance again last night. Talk about working outside of the lines. That story was crazy good!! And you, my friend, are crazy like a fox! Keep writing and I will continue to soak it up and wring it out the lessons in my writing!

  5. Muthoni on July 24, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    This exactly what I needed to read, thank you.

  6. Jill on July 24, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    It’s just like “weird”: There’s good weird and bad weird, so it makes sense for there to be good crazy and bad crazy.

    As for finding an audience, though, I guess it would depend on what your objectives are for making something (writing, painting, composing, etc). And then I guess it would depend on how “just as crazy as you are” your audience is. Because what if they’re not? Whether or how much it would matter would depend on your objective for making the thing in the first place.

    Or, sometimes who cares about objectives and audiences. Maybe you just need to go with your gut, even if (or especially because) it’s crazy and the crazier the better.

  7. Ann on July 24, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Ya, we need to break our comfort safe predictable zone again and again.

  8. Hiram Muñiz on July 24, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    You’re right on the craziness thing is to do your work without asking outside opinions. Just “feel” the way you just want it! You know what? You’re find people just as crazy as you are, living la “vida Loca”. Thanks for refreshing this thought I had and thought I was doing it wrong.

  9. Dr.Pallavi Dongare on July 25, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you sir.
    Pick an idea that goes beyond you.Sounds so beautiful but once I start to write something I end up writing words revolving around me .
    How can one differentiate an idea that is self indulgent and one that isn’t?

  10. Scott Attenborough on July 26, 2019 at 4:24 am

    I love living on the edge of crazy. The view over the edge give’s you a glimpse of what’s possible. It’s the kind of crazy that helps make me believe I can be better; there’s still a chance. Thanks, Mr. P, for reminding me.

  11. Juan on July 27, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Definitely agree. But wasn’t Lindbergh’s crazy also ridiculous, absurd and way too weird, not to mention life-threatening dangerous? Also, picking the idea you like, isn’t that somewhat self-indulgent? I mean, these are the big-ass dilemmas we all must go through which inevitably risk our well intended efforts into the very possibility of totally spoiling them on the way to becoming our truly best, right?

    It’s crazy not to be clear most of the time whether it’s our ego standing on the way (like I sure feel right now by writing this bullshit on your blog) or our best self. Maddening.

    I think the Lindberghs and all the greats who lived to raise the bar, they were so passionate about their vision that they kind of forgot whatever made sense to the extent of risking everything: fame, acceptance, own identity and in some cases even their lives. Hence, crazy.

    So, are we? “That” crazy? Hopefully, we all are

  12. Maddi on July 28, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    If you don’t risk anything – you won’t gain anything. I’ve lived my life taking risks, and sure I’ve made mistakes and paid the price, but it’s better to live then stagnate, wishing for something but daring to try. Sure, going out of your comfort zone is scary but it’s the only way to practice living. As a writer, I’ve had all the insecurities, doubts and fear. I’ve let my books loose on the world. I wrote what I did as the person I was at that time. Yep, some will love what you write and some will think it’s a load of rubbish. But hey, so what? The writer is not important, it’s what you write that’s the thing. Feeling that urge to express in words and share is not a choice, as every real writer knows. It’s who you are.
    Do something tomorrow out of your comfort zone, dare yourself to do something so unlike you. Smile at a miserable stranger; break a rule; talk to a random stranger. When we start taking chances, we begin to live and have a broader range of imagination to draw from.
    Go on I dare you!

  13. Maddi on July 28, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    How do bats have sex? Does the sun know it’s hot? Can I invent a new musical note? Are these my feet? What Am I really frightened of? Why is fear always of an imagined future thing? What the hell is the fandango anyway? How many rude words can you make on a calculator using numbers? Why do I create my own suffering? What would it be like to be free of useless painful emotions? Did I turn the oven off? Why am I the way I am? Does it matter? Does anything matter? Have you ever seen a pink parrot? Why do bears have to look cuddly but be dangerous? Why can’t I always get my own way? Why do I like writing this rubbish? Does anyone really listen or do they just want to hear themselves? Why do people feel the need to hurt other people? Have you ever seen a cat on a hot tin roof? Would it jump left or right? Why am I so bored? Is it OK to be broken sometimes? Should I try to write something sensible?

  14. Maddi on July 28, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    #whyishouldntbeletlooseonthisblog #sorry #notsorry

    “Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.”
    ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

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