One of the blogs I follow, Mad Genius Club, recently had an interesting couple of posts on insanity. (Despite the name, this is not their standard fare.) In a nutshell, anyone creative could be classified as slightly insane because they see the world in a different way to the accepted norm and the filters are a bit lower. Certainly I have compulsions to write which shut down all other functions until I can just get that one idea or sentence onto a page – something which is not really considered normal behaviour.
There is, however, a bit of a self-diagnosis issue going on here. Almost all creative arts – but particularly writers and actors – have to have a high level of empathy in order to convincingly portray voices that are not their own. If you can’t empathise enough with another person that you can get inside their head and see what they’re thinking, then acting or writing is probably not for you. But how far before that level of empathy – particularly when you are using it to get inside the heads of imaginary people – tips over into mild schizophrenia? You are hearing voices, sometimes because you’re trying but often because they just come to you, and when you’re deep inside a story it can be a bit of a wrench to leave it for the real world.
Of course, I have a tendency to make it worse by indulging in Live Action Role Play where the imaginary world is right there in front of me in full 3D colour, and no, I’m really not just imagining it. LARP is one of the best tools for writing because it gives you the experience of all these different characters and stories which you wouldn’t have dreamed the depth of on your own. On a different note, it also helps draw out or highlight aspects of your own real life personality, which can be useful. (No, angry boss, you don’t scare me. I’ve survived a balrog attack.)
In a way, though, drawing the line between LARP and real life is quite easy – if I’m wearing costume, it’s the pretend world, and if I’m not, it’s not. The story world is just in my head, and hovering in front of my open eyes any time I let my guard down. That can be harder to ignore.