A few years ago I found out about synesthesia and yet another piece of the strange way I viewed the world started to make sense. The short explanation is that it’s a neurological phenomenon that causes the senses to get mixed up in some way. So, someone who has it might smell lemons when they hear a particular piece of music. Or see numbers or letters as each having their own color. For me personally, I had always felt like each letter of the alphabet (and numbers too) had a specific gender. I knew that it wasn’t something I had invented with my imagination. It was just the way things were for me.
Out of all famous people—living or dead, fictional or real—who do you feel most strongly drawn to and why?
One friend immediately piped up. “Ellen Degeneres,” she said. “Because she’s warm and approachable. She makes me feel like it’s okay to be myself.” Then she paused. “And Mick Jagger,” she added. “Because he’s a free spirit. He doesn’t need anyone else’s approval.”
For a long time in my life I did not admit I was a writer. It was something I was privately proud of, but I also felt it was unsafe to tell this to other people. Probably because I knew that immediate questions would follow. Oh really? What have you written? Can I read it?
It wasn’t that I was ashamed of what I had written, or that I was suffering from self-doubt (although there was some of that, too). It was that I knew it was common procedure for a writer to give her work to others and get their “valuable feedback” on it. It was widely understood that I should be seeking this valuable feedback wherever I could and using it to improve my writing. It had been drilled into me that I should read and listen to the most fierce criticism without flinching. That this would make me stronger. That all “real” writers did this and were better for it.
The science of creativity is a big deal nowadays. We’re obsessed with the traits of genius, the ingredients that make up the gifted, innovator-type of mind. Persistence is the magic key, according to some. Others say it’s grit (which is really just persistence in a slightly different, more emotional, form). Or it’s intuition. It’s associative thinking. Habitual optimism. Productive habits already in place. Training yourself to get up at 4am every morning.