Create in Love, Create in Misery

My journals from age 9 to 19

I recently read an article about love inspiring creativity. I think that’s true sometimes, but I also think the opposite is true. Often misery and longing and pain can drive someone to create just as much, if not more, than the warm fuzzy feelings do.

Young and Restless

When I was a teen (read: when I was single), I was full of desire and longing. Not that I was unhappy all the time, but I knew there was so much more out there and all the struggles of adolescence were keeping me from what I wanted. Freedom. A career. A mate. I cringe to admit such things, but through my teens, about one out of every three nights I cried myself to sleep. I was miserable with loneliness for the opposite sex (sometimes it was related to a specific person and other times it was just the lack of anyone) and ache for my destiny to be fulfilled. I knew I would have a good future, but I wanted it now (then).

Those days my pen flew. I tore through journals like fire, consuming each page. I have a chest full of diaries I’ve kept. There’s got to be somewhere between fifteen and twenty of them (from age 9 to age 19) locked away, scrawled with bubbly handwriting and heart-dotted-i’s. And then I met my future husband. We started dating. And what had been an hour of journaling every night suddenly turned into two. I had the warm fuzzies. I had more to write about than ever before.

But after the wedding, my journal became a seriously neglected thing of the past. Like a best friend that gets discarded for the newest fling, it rarely had my attention. I was in love. I was happy. Scratch that. I was euphoric. I had no need for writing. (That’s not quite true. I always needed to be creative in some form or another. But at that point in my life, my writing went by the wayside.)

From Reality to Fiction

At this point you’re probably waiting for the bombshell. “You were happy? What happened?” you may be wondering. And to that I have nothing to offer but an anticlimax. I’m still in love and I’m still happy. Nothing changed. (Well, some things changed. Many years and several babies later, I now have four men to love.)

When I started writing fiction I realized that bringing back some of those long-forgotten emotions, especially the longing and the pain worked as really great fuel for writing. When I tuned in to those old feelings, the words just flowed.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t many authors of the classics have their own sad personal stories, writing about love when there was none? Writing is an amazing way to fulfill your own fantasies, dreams and hopes.

Digging Deep

That doesn’t mean you have to have a sad life or live in depression to be a good writer or have a good story. But it means that you have to dig deep to find those emotions. And I think that if they feel real in the moment, it makes the writing that much better.

It’s true for me. But what about you? Does connecting with your emotions help you create? Which is more powerful– the good or the bad?

7 thoughts on “Create in Love, Create in Misery

  • My answer to your last question is “yes.” 😉

    As I’ve been talking about on my blog, the time when I wasn’t noveling was one of the most depressing, despairing times I’ve ever gone through. If I want to feel content, if I want to be able to function like a human being, then I have to be writing stories. It’s what I was created to do — and if I’m not doing it, I start falling apart.

    But.

    Poetry is a different story. My very best poetry has come out of my darkest days. When I was at my most miserable, my poetry was at its most touching and most resonant.

    So, in a way, it’s a trade-off: When I’m noveling, I feel good. When I feel good, I can’t write a lot of poetry. The stories and the poems seem to come from two different places. Or maybe it’s the same place, but the Muse chooses different things to hand me.

    • That’s interesting. I completely forgot about my notebook full of poety until you mentioned this. It was around the same time in my life that I was journaling, peaking in my mid-teens.

      I’m not sure if they come from different places or not, but I haven’t written any poetry in over a decade.

      Although writing makes you a happier person, do you (temporarily) visit those dark seasons in life to glean inspirations for characters and such?

  • I agree with Courtney, somewhat. The emotion that fuels the best writing for me is the dark and sarcastic. I write much better fiction like that especially when I am tired and just don’t care.

    Poetry can go either way for me. I have written really good stuff when I was the most happy and in love. Things were positive and swell.

    Of course my favorites come from the dark places where you start to wonder if your parents would be better off if you just ran away and disappeared….

    The moods for fiction and poetry are different, I can’t switch back and forth very easily. Heaven help me if I need to put a poem in a story.

    It is the writing that is healing and cathartic for me, finding time to write can be the hard part

    • Justin,
      Thanks for your comment!
      I completely relate about having difficulty setting the time aside. I do designate “me” time away from family, but my stuggle is keeping focus on my task instead of bouncing around online or switching between projects.

  • I started my diaries when I turned 17, the day before Pearl Harbor, 1941. I am now on volume 81, but they are small books. I wrote a lot of facts about the war and my adventures, not so much emotions. However, the late night when I came home after being discharged from the Marine Corps, I felt really sad and cried a lot on the train.

    • Ms. Henderson, what a priceless treasure you have! I hope I have a journal collection like that someday. I’m working on it, but I’m slow and sporadic at journaling. Thanks for sharing such inspiration!

    • I’ve always been impressed by your faithfulness at journaling. I agree with Courtney; I’d love to have my entire life chronicled, but it looks like the way things are going, my writing focus will be fiction instead. It’s more enjoyable for me. I guess that’s still a type of life chronicle.

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