Is Writing a Self Destructive Behavior? (part one)

For a while when I was younger, I worried that writing might be a dangerous occupation. I was constantly coming across new stories of writers who drank, did drugs, or ended their lives by putting their heads in ovens or blowing their brains out across the last page of their newest opus. It was obvious that many famous writers suffered from some very serious self-destructive behavior. I could see a hint of what might have frustrated them when I was suffering writer’s block or when what I was writing wasn’t turning out the way I wanted  it to. I guessed that when I came to depend on my pen for a living, these problems would seem a lot bigger.

Later, when I was older and had realized that I had my own share of issues (being human made this an inescapable reality), and that none of my problems actually stemmed from my writing, I began to suspect that writing might really be an outlet for that behavior. I also thought that perhaps good writing was born out of that sort of suffering and internal turmoil.  This terrified me. I had problems, but not of that magnitude. How was I supposed to be a great writer? I couldn’t (and still can’t) stomach the idea of being mediocre, or, worse, of not writing at all. Yet, I didn’t want to have to go though the struggles that writers like Sylvia Plath or Virginia Wolfe did. Even authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who lived wholesome, productive lives, went through some extremely tough things.  Both men had difficult childhoods, survived war, and had to live through the loss of people very close to them.  They didn’t get off easy, though they seem to have handled life’s cruelty better than many.

Despite the conviction that I was starting out at a disadvantage (in the form of my relative emotional health), I couldn’t give up the desire to be a writer.  I knew I could survive unpublished, but  it would do me harm to stop writing.  I could never stop daydreaming and making up stories. That is who I am, a storyteller. All I can do is my best at every moment to tell stories that will be not only entertaining, but important to my readers.

As I have gotten deeper into the writing world, I’ve met more authors. Every time I’m introduced to a new person who’s preceded me into the publishing world, I find myself evaluating their behavior, listening to the stories they tell, and doing my best to figure out where they fall in the range between normal and disturbed.  To my great relief, almost all of them have been normal, well adjusted people. Better yet, these normal, healthy people are great writers!  There’s hope for me yet, folks.

Now that my worry about my writing ability being hampered by a lack of emotional turmoil and self destructive behavior is out of the way, I have no excuse for not committing myself to the path that I know will make me happiest.  Except, perhaps, that I’m beginning to suspect, once again, that writing may be a little bit dangerous…



~ by lamichaud on March 10, 2012.

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