I’m not a creative genius by any means, and that’s probably a good thing. A large percentage of such geniuses (77% for novelists and 87% for poets) suffer from some sort of mental disturbance — schizophrenia, cognitive disorders, depression, bipolarism, neuroses, alcoholism. I don’t even have the sort of mental dissociation that many creative non-geniuses have, such as sitting back and letting my characters tell the story, like some form of spirit writing. My characters never do anything that I didn’t intend them to do, they never take on a life of their own, they never appear to me in my dreams. They are a deliberate construct, created by carefully chosen words.
On the other hand, there is still a chance that I will end up as a one of those poor tormented souls. There are two kinds of genius — the wunderkind kind where a person is born with their genius, and the late bloomer kind where a person develops their genius through experience and trial and error. (To the extent that I have a talent for writing, mine is the late blooming kind. I tried to write a novel when I was young, but when I sat down to write, hoping the words would flow, my mind was a complete blank. Throughout the years, though, I did learn how to write.)
There is another possibility for such late-blooming genius to flower in me. Dan Chiasson, writing about poet Marianne Moore who became a star in her seventies, said “Poets often make a sudden advance with the death of their parents, as though a curfew has suddenly been lifted; for some, it happens just at the moment the imagination has stalled.”
If this “curfew” is lifted from other creative types, too, then when I am free from the responsibilities of looking after my father, my creativity could erupt. (And anyway, I used to be a poet once upon a time, so either way, the curfew lifting could be a boon.) I have the stalled imagination, that’s for sure — for several years, I haven’t been able to write much of anything except blog posts with sporadic forays into fiction writing — so who knows what will happen in the coming years. I just hope that if genius decides to descend on me, I get to keep my normalcy. I have no desire to suffer from any sort of mental disturbance. I’ll be satisfied with being just a garden-variety, everyday, creative non-genius who writes magnifient books.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.