The Method in my Madness

For many years, my father would look at my creative process and gasp at how chaotic it becomes. Most of my notebooks are organized like that one movie scene from A Beautiful Mind starring Hollywood’s most underappreciated actors in Russell Crowe. I am mainly a fiction writer, and unfortunately when I am struck with inspiration it’s often dispersed in a myriad of notebooks. I have roughly 15 different mini-composition books, all filled cover to cover with characters, scenes, ideas, sketches, jokes, etc. He likes to say he “sees the madness in my method.”

The biggest reason for my massive collection of notebook is that when I do have the inkling to write I’m usually outdoors, walking through whichever park I feel like exploring that day. I find nature to be my biggest inspiration, which is weird considering that I despised being away from my television set as a child. I have a deep fascination of discovering and exploring places I’ve never been. Usually those untouched by the claws of civilization. When I’m exploring a park, I like to imagine how the place came to be, how it looked at the beginning of the millennia. I like to wonder who walked those paths before me, which animals may have passed or flown by. When I’m surrounded by trees I feel most natural, as if I am able to tap into my creative juices unhindered. Secluded areas often find their way into my stories. Last semester, for example I wrote a story where one scene takes place similar to that of Geneseo’s arboretum. The creek acted in my story as an allegory for life moving on after death.

3 Replies to “The Method in my Madness”

  1. I wish I could use all of my half-empty notebooks as much as you do. I admire your drive and the madness in it. Since you appreciate film as much as I do, I’m sure you probably already know about The Imitation Game (directed by Morten Tyldum), but I’ll suggest your draw inspiration from it regardless. It reminds me of A Beautiful Mind in the way Alan Turing is judged for his unconventional genius, and eventually endures personal torment from the life that bloomed from their geniuses.

    In terms of nature, I think Robert Frost is always the way to go. I would say William Carlos Williams, but his simplicity kind of annoys me and always leaves me unsatisfied (as I feel he might do to you too). Frosts’ The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged is short but contains some of his best work that combines his perspective on nature and the existential thought that comes with indulging in it. Similarly, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Other Writings is one of my favorite pieces of existential literature in the world. I feel like you’d draw inspiration from his experience out in the woods, “sucking the marrow out of life,” learning to detach himself from humanity. Lastly, I highly suggest Charles Bukowski’s Sifting Through the Madness… because that man can produce images in your mind you wish weren’t there , but you’ll thank him for it later.

  2. I was intrigued when you mentioned that nature is a huge part of your inspiration. Having written numerous poems about place and locations, I am a fan of this as well! After some research online, I found that John Keats has some of his work online. I have looked at many of his pieces and found inspiration for my own work and think that you could use it as well. One of my favorites is titled “To Autumn” which you can find here

    Another one of my favorites regarding nature is a poem titled “Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In his poem he uses craft elements such as enjambment, repetition, and draws inspiration from powerful sources to create this piece. I believe we all and especially yourself can take a moment and soak up what Coleridge says and use that as inspiration for more of your nature work.

    Lastly, since you expressed your extreme love for nature in this post I will end by giving you some insight into local places where I take in inspiration. I am from the Albany area and have numerous parks and trails nearby, one of which named John Boyd Thatcher State Park, or often known as the Helderberg Escarpment. I had written a piece on this last semester in which I describe the natural scenery, well-known waterfalls, and the stunning view. You should definitely check it out if you are in the area, I highly recommend!

  3. I’m wondering, reading this, what you might make of Ander Monson’s poetry book Vacationland, whether it might have enough of both fiction and exploration to resonate with you. I’m also curious about the ways you might explore the relationship between poetry and notes, and the idea of the poem as a kind of note or notation. It’s clear you’ve got a great process going (disorder, while it can sometimes trip us up, is often a useful scattering in order to be able to pull things together) and I don’t want to interfere in that, but I also wonder if the idea of the note itself might be of interest. Terrance Hayes has made use of the pecha kucha form, which isn’t quite the same but might be of interest. So too might George Oppen’s Daybooks – not poetry, but not not poetry, either!

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