Tuesday, February 28, 2006

When writers don't hurt anymore

A good friend stopped writing a couple of years ago. The guy is talented, and his crime novel deserves to be published. When I'd met him about 10 years ago, he was still trying to recover from a bitter divorce. He wrote plenty of high-quality (in my opinion) noir fiction and participated actively in our writer's group. Over time he showed up less and less frequently at our group, and eventually stopped almost altogether.

So what happened? He found a girlfriend who made him happy, that's what. Life pulled him in a different direction, but love and work still left him with time to write if he wanted to. But one day he explained to me that he no longer had enough pain in his life to make him write. Anger and despair were part of his motivation to write in the first place, he said--in his novels he exacted plenty of fictional revenge on his wife, and now he feels much better.

Maybe that explains why I don't write more than I do. There is largely an absence of pain in my life. Doesn't unhappiness drive most creative writing?


Maegan N. Murray said...

You have a good point. I am an amateur writer; I've never been published. I just write because I love it, but I find that though I am motivated, I have nothing to drive me to write. I never thought about it before, but I think you have a good point about unhappiness. In my creative writing course at school, classmates who have parent who went through a divorce, have sick sibling, or don't get along with their parents, just seem to have so much more to write about. I am only nineteen and I've had a really easy life. I'm in my second year of college, doing well. I've always done well. I had a easy childhood. I grew up in a stable home. What do I have to write about?

Bob Sanchez said...

Maegan, you can certainly observe other people's unhappiness and write about that. In fact, I didn't really mean that you have to write about your own unhappiness, but that writing can be cathartic for a writer who's in pain.

Ask yourself "What if...?" and you can come up with lots to write about. Say you're writing about a happy woman. Ask what happens if x, y, or z happens to her? Her boyfriend cheats, her mother dies, her house burns down, she loses her job? Then you have the nugget of a story.

Richard Lewis said...

Well, me, I've found that I'm most happy when I'm unhappily writing.

I wish I could paint or do creative mathematics.

Richard Lewis said...

Oh, I meant to say before clicking on "publish" too quickly, no, I don't think unhappiness is required writing fuel. Imagination is.

Toni McGee Causey said...

I think we can each have a different motivation for writing. I've seen those whose unhappiness is the primary motivator, though, and I can't say that they get any happier with publication. Usually, it's the opposite, since the publishing business can be extremely rough, particularly the marketing end of things that writers must now participate in or perish quickly. For me, the strong desire to communicate stories, to make people laugh, to open up a world where maybe they see a little of themselves, feel connected, feel less alone... that's my motivation. It'll be around forever, I suspect.

Great blog, by the way. Excellent topics.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Bob, anyone I know...?



Bob Sanchez said...

Yeah, D.T., it's you I'm talking about. And that's no B.S.