Crazymakers are people who thwart the creativity of those they purportedly love. Crazymakers can turn up anywhere—they could be your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss. If you are involved with a crazymaker, you probably know it. All crazymakers share certain qualities:

  • Crazymakers break deals and ignore schedules.

  • Crazymakers expect the world to cater to their whims.

  • Crazymakers discount your perceptions.

  • Crazymakers spend your time and your money.

  • Crazymakers triangulate those they deal with.

  • Crazymakers are superior blamers.

  • Crazymakers create dramas—but seldom where they belong.

  • Crazymakers hate schedules—except their own.

  • Crazymakers love chaos.

  • Crazymakers deny that they are crazymakers.

    Crazymakers can show up anywhere: They may be your former boss, your sister, your brother-in-law, your neighbor, your golfing buddy. You may be related to them by birth, by marriage or by choice. You might have worked with them. You may share a living space with them. You might never see them—and yet they drive you crazy over the internet and the phone. They may be dead, but still alive and well in your mind, second-guessing your every thought. Or you may realize—gasp—that you are the crazymaker.

    Crazymakers thwart dreams and plans. Often they have an air of superiority. They cause their hapless victims to doubt themselves. They often capsize the best and most carefully laid plans. Particularly when it comes to money, crazymakers cause chaos. There is always some new agenda requiring cash. Crazymakers demand that others go along with their schemes. They deny common sense. Crazymakers enlist mysterious others in favor of their antics. The beleaguered victim feels isolated and abandoned. The crazymaker demands, "Agree with me," and, all too often, the other caves in, convinced by the crazymaker to go against his own good instinct. Life with a crazymaker is debilitating. It becomes a battleground with many skirmishes. Sarcasm and scorn are weapons the crazymaker employs with abandon. "It's just so stupid," the crazymaker may rail when faced with a sensible plan. The crazymaker undermines modest and steady growth, always looking for the "big deal"—the one that will prove the crazymaker right.

    Few things are more distracting than constant drama in an intimate relationship; and yet, when we can pull back and see where our power and responsibility lie, we can act with courage and discernment, and we can rebuild our life—with or without that person in it—in a way that supports us.

    I have received many letters and had many students ask how to defeat, destroy or escape their crazymakers over the years. I have seen many crazymakers leave, mellow and even heal through the use of creativity tools—either when they use the tools themselves or when their intimate other uses the tools and thus changes the dynamic of the relationship.

    It is unlikely that you can change your crazymaker. But you can come to understand why the connection to this person is so strong for you, and you can slowly expand, soothe and mend yourself. You can distance yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually. You can pull away, pull back into your own power and your own right to make decisions for yourself. When you change, you change the situation. Any intense relationship works like a mobile: You cannot move one piece without affecting the others. So while the situation may feel dire and you may feel powerless, you do hold the potential to alter it.

    One of the key elements in understanding our relationship to our crazymaker is to understand what we are getting out of it. A crazymaker is a giant distraction, but the unvarnished truth is this: Most of the time, we use our relationship with our crazymaker to block our own next creative or positive action.

    Simon, a designer, married a very controlling person who worked in finance and was quick to dismiss Simon's art as a "frivolous" career that was only as valuable as the money it made. Because Simon's income was very erratic and his spouse's was very steady, Simon found himself in the position again and again of feeling "less than"—and his spouse was happy to point it out. Simon had long wanted to try costume design, but when he spoke of this, his spouse rattled off a list of logical—and toxic—questions. How will you do that? You aren't that kind of designer. You'd have to learn a lot to do that. How will that ever make money? On and on, until Simon felt it was easier to ignore the whole idea than to talk about it.

    As I watched Simon, who was deeply creative and wildly talented, move more and more into a passive state, I felt devastated. His crazymaking spouse was a baffling choice for him on the surface. What did they possibly have in common? But beneath the surface, I saw that Simon had a deep fear of risk. Though his dreams and desires were large, he was afraid to make a step toward them. And though his spouse was a crazymaker and he felt that he was "shrinking" in the relationship, she let him solidly off the hook. If he wanted to stay blocked, there was scarcely a surer way than to spend his life with a person who would knock his ideas down faster than he could.

    As painful and scary as it is to live with a crazymaker, it often feels more painful to face what we want to avoid. Crazymakers thrive on doubt, and it is our self-doubt that causes us to align with crazymakers in the first place. Each new volley of disparagement engenders more self-doubt. "Maybe they're right. Maybe I am stupid," we think. The poisonous barbs do their trick. Few distractions are as powerful as someone in our immediate circle voicing doubt and casting wrenches into our path. But once we begin to act in our own best interest, the crazymaker's grip—or the urge to make others crazy—lessens. It takes deep honesty and great courage to break this cycle, but a page at a time, a conversation at a time, we pry loose their grip on us. As we record our own perceptions, we are no longer victimized by the crazymaker's crazy version of reality.

    crazymaker This excerpt was taken from It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, by Julia Cameron with Emma Lively. Printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Julia Cameron and Emma Lively 2016.

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