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Writing & Suffering

On Saturday my five-year relationship ended abruptly. It hurt. It still hurts. I hate that person as much as I love them. And yet, despite those feelings, I want him to do well. I want him to succeed. I want him to find himself.

But where does that leave me? In the lurch, for sure. But it also leaves me in a burnt-out and salted creative wasteland where it is difficult for me to manage much in the way of writing. As a fiction writer, I have a tendency to write long. For many years, I have written every day. These last few days, though? Nada.

I switched to poetry. It’s not great and that’s okay. It makes me feel creatively tethered. None of that really matters, though. What I find myself thinking about is this idea that good art comes from suffering and pain. That the only way you can be a good writer is to be in pain. If you want to sell a timeless classic, you gotta drink yourself away like Hemingway. If you want to inspire a generation of women, you have to be depressed like Plath.

Bullshit. Utter bullshit.

Here’s the scoop: Pain does inform art. They are related. Pain helps you understand a spectrum of human emotion. HOWEVER. You cannot be in active suffering to be an artist. Pain and suffering cloud the mind.

So, if you’re going through some struggle right now like I am, it’s okay to take a break. Do something different from your regular writing routine. If you’re a poet, write a short story. If you’re a creative nonfiction writer, write a silly story. Try and write your way out. And when you’re done suffering: Get back to work.


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