Today I was going to do an elaborate post on the fine line between insanity and perseverance in pursuing a writing career. My punchline was going to be: you're only insane if you stop enjoying it; or if you think you won't need a day job; or if you start referring to yourself in the third person; or if you start hearing voices. Since the punchline is already spoiled and since I'm not a certified psychology practitioner, let's scrap that deadly serious post and do something much more fun. Like invent a questionnaire for evaluating your sanity.
Yes! It's short! It's fun! (It's probably inaccurate!)
It's… The View from Here Insanity Test!*
It goes like this: ten questions, each with a choice of three answers. Pick the answer that best suits you. a = 1 point; b = 2 points; c = 3 points; d = 4 points. Tally your points at the end to see which Sanity Profile is yours.
One: Do you carry a notebook and pen everywhere so you can always be sure to have a place to write down your thoughts and ideas?
a) Meh. I'll probably remember.
b) I try to, but it's not a problem if I don't.
c) That's just good planning.
d) Of course. Doesn't everybody?
Two: Who do you let read your work?
a) Nobody. Who cares?
b) One or two carefully selected individuals.
c) It really depends on my mood, but I usually try to get a number of different perspectives.
Three: How often do you write?
a) Whenever. If I feel like it.
b) I try to write as often as possible, but there isn't always time.
c) I make time to write even when I'm very busy with other things.
d) Every day for two hours at least. No matter what.
Four: Do you need a quiet writing environment?
a) It doesn't matter.
b) I prefer it to be quiet, but I can handle some background noise.
c) Sometimes I enjoy writing with music playing, or even a movie or a TV show.
d) Though I do a special kind of writing exercise to music, I need dead silence or I can't concentrate. No distractions please!
Five: Have you read any writing manuals/manifestos/advice books?
a) I don't care what anyone else does.
b) I don't mind reading about other writers' methods, but I try not to let it influence me. I like my own style.
c) Yes, I've read some and found a number of interesting things.
d) I read as many as I can.
Six: Do you have a picture of your favorite writer hanging on a wall in your house (possibly close to where you do your writing)?
a) I'm not into that kind of thing.
b) I used to, but I took it down.
c) Yes, but it's not right where I can see it.
d) More than one, actually. Don't look at me like that! It's inspirational.
Seven: Do you keep a diary? Have you considered that it could be used later to analyze your work?
a) Right. Like I even keep a diary.
b) I doubt it'll be of use to anyone. I don't write much in it.
c) I have thought of that. I'll leave instructions with someone I trust to destroy it after I die.
d) No! (Yes.)
Eight: Do you know a lot of other aspiring writers?
b) A couple. One of them is a good friend.
c) A lot. I'm very friendly with most.
d) Countless. I run a mailing list and organize workshops.
Nine: If given a choice, would you rather be commercially successful or critically acclaimed?
a) These questions are stupid.
b) Critically acclaimed. I think.
c) Can I be a little bit of both?
d) I don't see why those two should be mutually exclusive. If I'm critically acclaimed, then lots of people will read my work.
Ten: Do you wonder whether your work will stand the test of time?
a) I should have stopped reading after the first question.
b) It's not that important to me.
c) I can't say that I don't.
d) But of course. Who wants to be forgotten?
Slightly Insane (10-19 points)
And probably more than a little antisocial. We admire your "I'm only writing for me" attitude (confession: we're a bit envious), but you might enjoy sharing your work with others just a little more and getting some feedback. Also, if you're ever looking to get published, you'll need to adjust to the idea that eventually other people have to get involved in the process. And, if you'll excuse the cheap psychology, our guess is that your loner bravado is a cover for hypersensitivity.
Casually Insane (20-30 points)
You're calm, you're cool – you've got the passion, but you don't let it run your life. If you scored closer to 20, you might want to get a little more active. Don't be afraid to get a bit crazier. If you scored closer to 30, then you should be careful you don't end up in the Noticeably Insane category. It's likely they're not enjoying themselves as much as you are.
Noticeably Insane (31-40 points)
And probably more than a little stressed-out. First we suggest that you calm down. You're probably very entertaining company and very good at getting things done, but don't forget that you're not running a marathon and don't let ambition poison the creative process. Also, don't be so quick to turn to others for their opinions or guidance. You have eyes and ears everywhere – and that's a good thing – but it's also important to listen to yourself. Or, it might be the opposite: you ask for everyone's opinion but then don't bother listening. Listen to an opinion before you decide to ignore it.
* Monsieur French & co. have not authorized me to use the magazine's name. I'm just being presumptuous.