Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Desire to Create

As writers, as artists, we are often blessed (or plagued, as the case may be) with a burning desire to create. A desire that, if left unsated, will eventually consume us and leave our ashen remains smouldering in ruin.

There are several different reasons why we may ignore the siren's call to create, many that may seem unique to our own situation. However, it is only when we step outside of ourselves that we can truly appreciate the fact that we all suffer. While our pain may not be exactly the same as that of those who stand beside us, or of those who came before us or who may come after, it is pain. We suffer it apart and yet somehow together.

Sometimes we are dealt a bad hand, yet often our suffering comes from our own doings or habits -- our persistent belief that we can't possibly be good enough: that we deserve nothing but failure.

It has been said that art is the love-child of pain, that we suffer so that we might create. But suffering is not a necessity of creation, nor is it a prerequisite. Like devout, extremist monks we may flog ourselves in hope of revelation, yet such flogging in all of its ritualistic glory could itself become the catalyst of stagnation, the inability to create -- a fear that we may never be good enough or that perhaps pain is all that we should ever truly know.

Pain comes in many forms: anxiety, regret, helplessness, frustration, sickness, despair, depression... How many of us suffer pointlessly?

Does one need to experience pain firsthand for it to translate onto the page? Is it ever enough to empathize and observe? Sure, we should write what we know, but does it take a murderer to write a murder mystery? Must we be beaten within inches of our lives to depict a convincing victim?

I think we often associate pain and personal anguish with creation because they are strong feelings, with powerful emotions. It can be hard to write when things are going well because we want to enjoy reality while it's good, but leaving our imaginations for the bad times alone is a dangerous prospect. At best, we fail to write but only ever so often. At worst, writing becomes associated with feeling bad or being in some sort of anguish, emotional or otherwise. In such circumstances, a sudden desire to write during good times could be a catalyst for darker events, turning a hobby our passion into an anchor for despair.

Perhaps you're not like me, and this isn't an issue. If so, I'm very happy for you. Yet, I have come to the realization that there are many writers , artists, who find themselves dealing with these very same issues. I guess I just wanted to take a few minutes to let you know that it's okay to create when you're doing well. It's okay for me too. It's something I haven't done a very good job of remembering lately.
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5 comments:

Jena Isle said...

Hello Brady,

I have a personal friend who can write very beautiful poetry when he is depressed. And he told me it helps to get depressed now and then, so he could write..lol...but of course when he is happy, he could do as well. But the poems made during his depression were hauntingly beautiful. This happens to me too, at times.

As a writer, you are lucky to have some venue to express your thoughts. Writing them down is actually therapeutic.. This is the primary reason why I write down my thoughts too. Imagine all those people out there who could not do so, they must be in more pain than us...lol..

I enjoyed the post. Thanks.

Rachel Levine said...

Hi Brady,
I applaud you for saying that it is "OK" to write when you feel OK. I have written poetry and fiction when I was very down, and much of it is lovely. I wrote a book (Brooklyn Valentine) to have fun and I did, and the people who read it have fun too. It was very cool to write without that bleak lens. I suggest people do both. Remember, there are NO right and wrong ways when it comes to creative writing (or any art form) though there always seem to be people willing to tell you there are!
Best Regards,
Rachel

Jim Murdoch said...

My best work has always come naturally as a result of negative emotions. The key word in that sentence is ‘naturally’ because I have never been able to artificially create the perfect conditions to write. The trick is to capitalise on them while you can. Empathy is something that most people would consider a positive thing and yet what it usually involves is taking on another person’s pain. That’s another useful source of inspiration. This doesn’t mean that I can’t write at any other time because I can. I’m not miserable as sin just now and I’m doing okay. Every line in a novel or a play or even a poem does not need to be a work of genius. There is a lot of ordinary writing that needs to be done in any project. So do that when you can’t do anything else. At the very least edit. That’s probably something that is best done with a level head.

Cathy Williams said...

Hi,
I agree that being depressed or feeling sorrow hits emotion. As a writer or a poet, one must understand the dilemmas of life and effects of it.

Tracey said...

It's true that it's okay to write when you're happy. I find I try to convey the emotion in myself that I want to write about. That way I can live in the moment and describe how I feel. But I do often write thrillers, so there isn't a lot of times my characters are truly happy.