Subscribe to Christianity Today

Philip Yancey

Writing as a Psychotic Act, Part 1

It is not natural to write. We are created to run and hunt and swim and make love but not to sit hunched with a piece of paper and some ink scribbling hieroglyphs. And when we do it, it is an act of rebellion against God himself, who did not design us to do that.

-Carlos Fuentes

One year I joined a group of 20 other writers for a weekend gathering. A nerdy bunch, we sat around and discussed such matters as the books we'd recently read, the particulars of our daily schedules, and the eccentric behavior we revert to in order to surmount the dreaded writer's block. Fascinating stuff. A few nonwriting spouses had come along, and toward the end of the gathering one of them (Thanne Wangerin, wife of National Book Award-winner Walter Wangerin, Jr.) made this comment: "For the first time in my life I realize that Walt's not the only crazy one!"

Thanne chose her words well: not "Walt's not crazy," but rather he's "not the only crazy one." Ever since that weekend I have made a study of the craziness of writers, a project simplified by my being a writer. I look in the mirror; I listen to my wife describe my life to other people; I talk to other writers. I also read books about writing, shelves full of books, the existence of which is a telling fact in itself: writers seem irresistibly drawn to writing about the act of writing, as if in tacit acknowledgment that they must somehow defend and explain their aberrant behavior.

All my research points to a common diagnosis. Like Carlos Fuentes, I believe writing to be an unnatural act (how, pray tell, does Fuentes make his living?), possibly a psychotic act, one that should perhaps be made illegal in certain Southern states. Hence in this age of victimization, in which hitherto unrecognized categories of the oppressed daily compete to raise our consciousness, I wish to direct your sympathies to writers, an overlooked minority who are paid (not very well) to exhibit their psychoses in public.

Do I use the word psychotic merely for dramatic ...

To continue reading

- or -
Free CT Books Newsletter. Sign up today!
Most ReadMost Shared

Seminary/Grad SchoolsCollege Guide