5 Geniuses With Hilariously Stupid Creative Processes
Some artists need total silence to focus. Others need their favorite music. A select few can only create if a ferret screams in ecstasy every seven seconds (RIP Prince). We may or may not be lying about some or all of the above, but it's true that some incredibly successful people can only get work done under conditions so bizarre or idiotic that anyone else would be driven insane within minutes.
George R.R. Martin Uses An '80s Writing Program And Types With One Finger
At the risk of making a controversial statement, George R.R. Martin is a slow writer. It's been six years since the most recent Song Of Ice And Fire book, A Dance With Dragons, was released, and that came out six years after A Feast For Crows. It's his life, he owes us nothing, and his process obviously creates great books, so we should all shut up about it. But writing like frozen molasses has historically annoyed both his fans and publishers.
Spoiler: Frozen molasses is how they defeat the White Walkers.
Now, the world Martin's crafting is massive, and he has hundreds of moving parts, countless five-page descriptions of meals eaten by quaternary characters, and Daenerys' explosive diarrhea to pack into his narrative. But he's being held up by a more technical problem, too. See if you can spot it!
No, not the haunted bird lamp. Every writer has that.
That's a picture of Martin working with a little program called WordStar. Never heard of it? Why, it was among the hottest software that DOS had to offer! Featuring an eye-numbing interface and absolutely none of the features of any modern word processor, writing a 422,000-word novel in it is like building a new shed entirely out of toothpicks scavenged from restaurants.
Now, before you go calling Martin a Luddite, keep in mind that he has kept updated ... all the way to 1987's WordStar 4.0. He also never had to deal with Windows 8, so maybe we're the real idiots here. Martin says he just hates how modern word processors insist on automatically capitalizing words and underlining every perceived mistake -- which, when half your vocabulary is made-up words like "Essos," "Targaryen," and "Sam," is an understandable annoyance ... and one that could absolutely be turned off in about five seconds.
Maybe a hip niece could help him out?
Keep in mind that an old word processor means an old computer, so for all we know, he finished Winds Of Winter in 2015 and is still trying to transfer it to 47 floppy disks. But the bigger problem is that Martin only types with one finger at a time, like your grandpa who tried to say that he liked your new Facebook profile photo, but somehow ended up buying 47 Malaysian bootlegs of Pitch Perfect instead. That means Martin types closer to 7 WPM than 70. So, uh ... maybe get a library card and check out some other books while you wait. It's gonna be a bit.
Douglas Adams Had To Be Basically Kidnapped To Write
Douglas Adams is responsible for The Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy, some of the funniest stuff to be run into the ground this side of Monty Python. His work has been transformed into films and TV shows, and he's influenced both a Radiohead song and a Coldplay song, so he had his highs and lows. But it's amazing that happened at all, though, since Adams found it difficult to write. Which, being a writer and all, is sort of a problem.
Though it explains his fantasies of two-word encyclopedia articles.
There wasn't any fundamental problem. He wasn't an alcoholic or a tortured genius plagued by demons. Adams simply disliked spending time alone, and really, really liked procrastinating. Every student who's been assigned an essay about "what freedom means to you" can relate, but students don't have an entire franchise reliant on what's coming out of their brains. Deadlines rapidly faded into the mists of time, so Adams' publishers had to resort to some extreme solutions to get the words (and the money they would generate) out of him.
One of his publishers, Sue Freestone, started squatting in Adams's house to "bully" him into writing, presumably by accusing him of not being a nerd and threatening to fix his wedgie. Treating Adams like a child who needed to do his homework was apparently the go-to strategy, as another former publisher, Sonny Mehta, once locked him in a hotel suite for two weeks. According to legend, the phone was removed and he was only allowed out of the room for walks. Supervised walks, lest he bolted like a misbehaving puppy.
It took manacles and five weeks to get that out of him.
As for what Adams thought of essentially being held against his will? He tacitly approved, stating, "It was simple. I sat at the desk and typed and Sonny sat in an armchair and glowered." So either he recognized the dumb necessity of it, or he was deep in the throes of Stockholm Syndrome.
A Nearly Blind James Joyce Wrote With Crayons
James Joyce is the world-famous writer of Ulysses, Dubliners and other such books which everyone recognizes as classics but no one has actually read. Possibly even by Joyce himself -- he was dealt a bad hand in the eyesight department. He did have glasses, but a doctor advised him not to wear them, in the belief that his eyesight would naturally grow stronger, because doctors used to be pretty goddamn stupid.
All those jokes about drunk Irishmen were originally about drunk physicians.
Joyce underwent at least 10 operations to improve his eyesight, absolutely none of which helped. Eventually he became almost totally blind, but, not wanting to give up his passion, he took to writing with red crayons on huge sheets of white paper, and even wore a white coat to maximize how much he could see thanks to the light reflecting off it.
By the laws of the day, this officially made him a licensed doctor.
Much of his later work was done this way, so some of the greatest achievements in the English language were written like a child's kindergarten project. And hell, for all we know, words that Joyce invented, like "devlinsfirst" and "goragorridgeorballyedpuhkalsom," were in fact errors, and everyone called him a genius because no one wanted to be a dick to the blind guy.
"I have to do this by myskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!"
Aaron Sorkin Fully Acts Out Every Line To Himself First
Lots of writers talk out their own dialogue, but no one tests it with as much gusto as famous screenwriter and condescender to women Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is considered a master of dialogue, witty banter that he reuses verbatim, characters who say "walk with me," and shows about underappreciated geniuses who happen to share all of Sorkin's political views. His work is also full of dramatic, impassioned speeches, and it turns out there's a reason for that: Sorkin doesn't just read it out loud, he fully acts all of his writing to himself, like a child doing a one-kid play in their pillow fort.
"But it's not just about upholstery. It's about what matters."
Sorkin says that he's the first person to test all of his roles, which means that at some point he spent an afternoon shouting "YOU can't handle the truth! You CAN'T handle the truth. You can't HANDLE the truth!" until he got it precisely right. And one time he was play-acting so hard that he lunged toward a mirror and broke his own nose. Apparently this was for that famously physical and demanding TV series The Newsroom, although we suppose it's possible that he had a cocaine relapse that went wrong and "intense Jeff Daniels role play" was the least embarrassing explanation he could muster.
Reminder: Dumb and Dumber To was only Jeff's second-stupidest role.
Michael Jackson Sang Every Note Of Every Instrument In His Songs
Like many pop stars, Jackson couldn't read or write sheet music, as he had no formal training. So how did he write so many classic songs, like "Thriller," "Billie Jean," and "Will You Be There (Theme From Free Willy)"?
And the immortal lyrics "What about elephants? Have we lost their trust?"
Well, you know when you're trying to think of the name of a song, but you can't remember any lyrics? You're all "It goes like duh-duh-DUUUH," and it's not helpful? To anybody? That's how Jackson wrote all of his songs.
Jackson would sing his songs like a kind of vocal musical notation, piece by painstaking piece, so the session musicians knew what to play. And not just the melodies or the big hooks -- Jackson sang every note of every guitar chord, string arrangement, bass lick ... everything. Here's his all-vocal demo of "Beat It":
So his demos were better than every professional a cappella group channel on YouTube.
Normally we'd say that it would be less work to just learn how to compose music, but when you're gifted a voice like Jackson's, you damn well show if off at every possible opportunity.
Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Molly is an avid reader and writer with all sorts of millennial dreams. She is also willing to write for food.
For more stories to bring out your inner smart person, check out 7 'Eccentric' Geniuses Who Were Clearly Just Insane and 6 Letters By Famous Geniuses That Prove They Were Huge Dicks.
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