The Writer and The Estate Agent

Man and woman.jpg

David Napthine writes:-

Writers I’ve talked to about ‘Inner Voices’ have been very generous; willing to disclose their experiences, their understanding of the phenomenon, and how, if at all, it informs their work. They might not have thought much about the questions I have asked, they may even have been irritated by them, but they have not inferred/assumed that I am questioning their sanity.

Yet it is held by many that there is a link between madness and creativity. I’m not entirely convinced though stories abound of writers battling mental ill-health though whether such a condition is a necessary prerequisite to creative endeavour is debatable.

I do think, however, that there is an expectation within our cultural framework (established and nurtured by anecdote, reportage, output, biography, autobiography and by writers themselves) that writers should see and experience things differently because they are creative.

“So you’re a writer?”


“And you hear voices?”


“So you should”


“So you’re an Estate Agent?”


“And you hear voices?”


“You need help”

The writer is “allowed” to hear voices, feel presences, be depressed, and exhibit behaviour that does not conform to the norm. This is not to dismiss those writers who experience mental distress but to argue that different social and occupational groupings have different levels of acceptance of these phenomena. As important, the writer is expected to express their inner world, use it in their writing to enlighten and entertain (which can be both therapeutic and joyful). The Estate Agent cannot, must not, and dare not express their inner world if that inner world is beset by ill-health. There is no opportunity for their everyday world will not accept it

The expectation/acceptance that writers are “different” arises not because of what they write but because they write. It is in that messy and shadowy world in which the writer lives as they begin to write, glimpse a scene, create character, develop story, grasp for description and slowly take up residence in The Idea, that voices may speak, shout, mumble and whisper, that they start to feel and sense the story emerge from the half-light, “see” what they’re writing about, and begin to understand who they are. And as the writing continues the writer invents and re-frames, lives with nuance, ambiguity, diversion, getting lost and that uncertain exploration of the emotions and states that creative writing generates.

If the estate agent was allowed to do this – live and write in that unstructured and half-understood world, write as they will, scribble and scrawl, mutter and pace, search and meander – they too would gain a greater understanding of who they are. They would have licence to talk to their voices, live with their visions, hang out with their feelings, troubled or not.  There does not have to be an ending – a daily journal, an article, a recovery story or whatever – only the “writer” is obliged to edit, re-structure, and present a coherent finished work.

So is there a link between “madness” and creativity? The writer is “allowed” to explore emotional states, the dark and the light, the unbidden and the unknown. That is not “mad” that is being human and alive to who you are. Let the estate agent do the same but with no demand to produce something. No finished story, no structured narrative. For it is the act, not the subject matter, of writing that is important.


3 thoughts on “The Writer and The Estate Agent

  1. Reblogged this on READ and commented:
    Are we culturally conditioned to assume that when writers hear voices it’s part of their creative process, and when anyone else does it’s a sign of madness? Provocative thoughts from the Writers’ Inner Voices project.

  2. I think that if the essay the book or whatever is coherent can be edited. The voices for those that know how to use them in a positive way are an extra. Don’t forget that not only the writers or readers hear voices. I agree with you even if it’s a kind of insult for those that try to be writers. Writers manipulate interfere educate … the one and only explains the creation by the pen. Thanks

  3. Having suffered a major hemorrhagic stroke some five years back now, I think some of my colleagues might ascribe some of my writerly oddities to that. The new ones at least. The ones who knew me before know pretty much nothing changed personality wise, except perhaps a slight ‘the worse has already happened to me’ attitude. I’ve always been a tad nuts is what I’m saying, but now I have an excuse for my wilder eccentricities (talking to myself at work isn’t one of them, or not yet). I do get lost inside my own head sometimes. To the extent that I cannot hear the outside world, only my world and it’s characters.

    I had characters talk to me just the same before, so nothing changed, except I could walk more then, so immersing myself in the worlds I created *might* have been easier on late night walks? I’m not sure.

    If there is one problem I have in discussing the progress of my story with its characters is that they always talk about the ‘Platonic ideal form’ of the story, which never quite matches what I’ve written down.

    Possibly it could match my manuscript better, if I worked really hard. But then it might be over detailed. That carries it’s own problems, that way lies huge books, something I don’t like the sound of. Editing is hard enough on a normal sized book.
    They (or I through them, this gets confusing) know where I want the story to go. Or in one notable case, where it needed to go.

    If we as writers went around insisting these people we created were real then it would be serious medication time. How and why the subconscious mind manifests story elements as ‘people we can interact with’ is fascinating.

    I find it quite useful.

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