I'm Not Flaky; I'm Brilliant!

Do these manuscripts make my cognitive processes look non-standard to you?

I recently read an article summarizing a study that claims writers’ thought processes closely resemble those of folks diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the article, many famous writers – F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens, for example – deviate from so-called “normal” ways of thinking and feeling because their brains are constantly squeezing out too much creative juice to focus too long on one thing. According to the article, “Fink’s hypothesis is that the most creative people are continually making associations between the external world and their internal experiences and memories. They cannot focus on one thing quite like the average person.” Presumably, because of this inability to focus, these folks are too scattered to enact socially appropriate behaviors and think in a traditionally linear manner.

I can relate. Well, sorta.
For me, the experience is a little different than flitting between my physical and mental worlds like a hummingbird between juicy flowers. My particular cognitive quirk is walking and smiling through the material world while only occasionally touching base with it.

As I’ve been known to say a time or eighty to my fiance, I’d make a kick-butt brain in a jar.  I just do better in the world of ideas than in this meaty reality with its endless variations, vagaries, and contingencies. When things like, oh, I dunno, my pipes bursting gush their way into my reality, I handle it, I do, but I’m also a nervous wreck till equilibrium reestablishes itself and I can sink back into my head. Brains in jars don’t have to worry about finding an alternative place to pee during situational waterlessness. Just sayin’.

I also have the memory capacity of a rutabaga. Trust me on this. My oldest sister has told me she thinks it’s because I’m so brilliant I’m always distracted by my inner dialogues and can’t focus on this material world thingy. I like her explanation way better than I’m just a giant flake. Maybe Lauri is close to right; maybe it’s because I’m a creative superhero that I lose my cell phone at least once a day and can’t remember any of my 120 students’ faces this semester. Oh, and why I’m the queen of dissociating; I can spend an entire conversation nodding and smiling while mentally plotting my next blog post.

Except when I’m talking to you, of course. Then I’m totally present.

My family has always told me I come by my horrible memory honestly; my beloved grandmother was always two steps behind – or maybe ahead of – the present. She lost her keys more times than not, drove cars in a kind of happy daze, and contentedly immersed herself in her passions: ministering, writing, and painting. But that’s just it. Maybe I didn’t inherit her atrocious memory as much as I snagged her mountain of creativity. Hey, perhaps we share more than just a nose, Grandma.

In short, people come in all flavors of feelings, thinking, and socializing. It’s just kinda nice to know my flavor of different is also what helps fuel my creativity… and the misplacement of my wallet. 

NOTE: The sociologist in me feels compelled to provide the following caveat: I don’t mean to disrespect anyone who’s been diagnosed with any of the above conditions. I know forgetfulness is different than bipolar disorder. I have much respect for all forms of mental, social, and emotional differences.


  1. "I honestly think “normal” ways of thinking and feeling are social constructs and ideals that keep up trapped in self-policing cycles." Yes oh yes oh yes oh yes...says one of the worst house cleaners in history as she goes over sentences that will appear in her latest chapter. Sometimes living as a brain in a jar sounds like heaven. (Star Trek 1 features just such an episode, with Mr. Spock as a brain ruling an entire society :) )

    1. I hear ya on being the worst housekeeper. I think I need a house elf. :)

      As always, Spock has the right of it.


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