by Robin Spano
Question of the week: Does a great writer have to have a tortured soul? Why or why not?
Answer: Yes and no.
To write something original, a writer has to let their crazy side out to play. We have to take chances and push limits and trust an editor to help us reel it all in later. I don't think we so much need a higher level of torture in our souls than the average person, but like Susan said in her answer yesterday, we have to be able to look at our own dark side, to spend some time dissecting and understanding it, in order to write empathetically about the characters who populate our stories.
There have been many studies about the link between creativity on madness. Most results indicate that while highly creative people do have significantly higher tendencies toward depression, addiction, bipolar, and other mood disorders, their best work is produced NOT when those illnesses are taking hold of them, but in times of health and emotional strength.
My own experience:
I think first draft writing is hardest for me for this reason. It's when my rational mind has to go live somewhere else for a while, my editorial sense has to be quashed so I can let my fingers fly over the keyboard as the characters figure out where they're going. It's hard, and a bit scary, to give up that level of control. So when I start to get deep into fiction land and feel a little more nuts than I'm comfortable with, I take comfort from those who have gone before me.
Quotes I like:
Kurt Vonnegut: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Oscar Wilde: “An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.”
Lady Gaga: “When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time.”