It’s oft been said that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness. It’s the kind of thing annoying people say when they find you muttering over dropped paperwork. You know the scene: you berate yourself out loud for being clumsy, then they lean in and shrug “You know what they say… First sign and all that…” then tut ominously as though they can see a full progression of derangement which ends in you eating tepid custard in a state-funded cell with a man named Malcolm who shouts at his foreskin. You then laugh politely even though you want to yell “I’D RATHER TALK TO MYSELF THAN TO YOU, YOU ANNOYING TURD, NOW GET YOUR FETID HALITOSIS AWAY FROM MY FACE.”
If talking to yourself is truly the first signpost on the freeway to Loonyville then I’d say that chuckling to yourself while pretending you’re a buck-toothed nun is quite possibly another sign, maybe even a dedicated rest-stop. A picnic bench in a layby on the B road to Little Bonkers. A nice flask of Doolally soup while journeying gently into the town-square of Full-On Madness just in time for the Poo-Licking Parade.
I found myself doing just that this week. (Chuckling as a buck-toothed nun who is secretly in love with Andy Williams and who once shot a Nazi in the face in wartime Lourdes, not licking poo). I consoled myself with the fact I was only doing it for the purposes of ‘writing a play’. A culturally permissible kind of schizophrenia. Once consoled, I treated myself to a half-hour mash-up of ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’ and ‘Moon River’, which went quite well.
When you catch yourself saying to a friend that you can only begin writing the dialogue of a new play once you ‘hear the voices talking to each other in your head’, you’re socially required to consider that you might be a bit mad, or at least a total twonk that needs a ruddy good punch in the chops.
Brainy bearded psychologist types in shabby tweed have done a lot of probing into the relationship between madness and creativity. Of course, I have exactly zero factoids about their musings to impart here, mainly because instead of reading enlightening medical journals, I sit around voicing imaginary convents. I do wonder though if we access a benign sort of madness when we’re being ‘creative’. The word ‘creative’ innately implies that we are conjuring something from nothing, which is by its very nature a diversion from what is real. Does that mean then that madness is ‘in there’, a latent thing in all of us, and only ever a few bad circumstances, a genetic blip or a chemical shake-up away from a dramatic unveiling? Are we all naturally bonkers and it’s only years of having our madness socialised out of ourselves while adopting the lowest common denominator behaviours that denote sanity, that teaches us how to ‘act’ sane?
I, again, console myself that I only do ‘weird stuff’ while no one is watching. But that’s not strictly true. I have muttered to myself while writing in cafes, definitely. A lot. Who knows which way it will go. Perhaps in twenty years time I’ll be drinking a cappuccino with my Yukka plant husband Claude. Or perhaps I’ll be watching the opening night of a play I wrote slowly throughout months of transcribing the voices in my head.
Or perhaps I’ll be a nun. It’s quite fun you know. Ooh, I wonder if habits have hidden pockets…
*wanders off muttering to herself about pockets…*