My guitar teacher once told me that he never composed any music when he was happy. When he was happy he’d be out there in the world enjoying himself. But when he was sad…that was a whole different experience. When he was depressed or hurt he was able to write the most beautiful songs. He said that when you’re down that’s when you create the most touching, deep music, the kind that people will understand and relate to. When you’re happy, you basically have no care in the world!
That made me wonder about my writing (perhaps you can relate to this as well). When do I write the most? I must admit I don’t write a lot when I’m happy. I usually find inspiration when confronted with problems of the heart. That’s when the words start to flow. And so I started thinking of all the writers that I admire. I have read about their personal lives and I can’t say any of them had a very happy one. Take Bram Stoker for example. He was in love with an actor who never returned his affection. Dracula captured some of the writer’s hidden desires. Edgar Allan Poe seemed to lose all the women he ever loved, starting at a very young age, with his own mother. If he hadn’t experienced that pain, would he have ever been able to write such wonders as ‘The Raven’ or ‘Annabel Lee’? And so many more writers, take Emily Bronte and her sisters, Mary Shelley and her husband’s death. Their experiences in life, their pain is what triggered them into writing the stories and books we so much enjoy now. It is quite logical isn’t it? How can you write about poverty if you’ve never been through it? How can you talk about agonizing heartbreaks if your heart has never been broken? If a wealthy man who has lived a happy life starts writing about the pains we face in life, how much of it would you believe?
If I hadn’t had those moments in my life when I thought I’d just tear my own heart out and throw it in the mincer, perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to write about a character that goes through that feeling. How about you? How do your life experiences influence your creations?
It is cruel to say but perhaps writers need to go through certain painful things in life to be able to share their experience with us, to make us see their regrets and their suffering. For some of us it may serve as a warning but most of us comfort. Life isn’t pain free. We can try to mask it and push it away or we can embrace the pain, let it in and watch the wounds heal, slowly but surely. And not only writers, think of all the painters, Van Gogh, Frida, composers, Mozart, the human sacrifice has to be made for the birth of eternal art.
A bit too tragic you think? Perhaps that’s just what life is. But there is one thing more tragic to it. Forgetting it all. Forgetting their pain, ignoring their suffering by choosing not to read their books, poems, not to listen to their music, not to look at their art…choosing to stare into our mobile phones and forgetting…That would be the true tragedy of it all.