Sunday, November 28, 2010

Food for Thought...and Writing

So you know that whole stereotypical writer? Angsty, broody, dressed in black, eccentric, moody, often an alcoholic or chain-smoker (or both)? Same goes for artist, sculptor - anyone in the arts. People hear that I'm a writer and they'll look at me (a mostly normal soccer mom) and say "wow, cool, I never would have guessed." I can't really blame them. I still have that stereotype visual in my head even though I and most of my friends are writers who don't fit that mold.

I was asked once if I thought creative people needed angst to create. And you know what, it's an interesting question.

Do I think creative people need angst?…. No. Do I think many creative people have angst (at least more than the average person)? ….. Yes. Do I need angst? …. I have no idea.

Angst can be defined as “A feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression…[and]…going through deep emotional and possibly physical pain .” For you visual folk, this is how I see it:


No Angst:

I do tend to be more inspired by angst. Depression and sadness seem to draw the creativity out of me more than other emotions. (What this says about me I really don’t want to know…not sure I want to) :D The good news is, I don’t necessarily need the angst to be my own. I get very inspired by other people’s angst as well, like a really good, angsty song or movie. I guess I’d have to say, no, I don’t think creative people have to have angst in order to produce good work. But, I do think it helps.

Robert Penn Warren said:

The writer’s fundamental attempt is to understand the meaning of his own experiences. If he can’t break through those issues that concern him deeply, he’s not going to be very good.

I think this is what I try to do in my work. I wouldn’t describe it as “angst,” but I do dissect my experiences in order to serve up the most intense parts of them. And the more “angsty” emotions do tend to be the strongest, the ones that stick with me the most. For example, I was ecstatic at my wedding. It was a wonderful day. And then when my son was born, the love and joy I felt looking into his newborn eyes was beyond description.

But the experiences that are the easiest to delve into now, are the depressing ones, the sad, heartbreaking, fearful, adrenaline-filled, emotional ones. Though I remember the "good times" clearly, I have a hard time feeling that exact euphoria I felt at the best moments of my life. But I can feel the pain and anguish and rage and heat and desire and all consuming love or hate that I felt at the worst or most intense moments in my life at a moment’s notice – I just have to dip into the right memory.

This post is getting tremendously long, so I'll go into the whole emotion aspect more next week, but for now, let me ask you...

Do you think creative people need angst to create? Do you need it?


Katrina L. Lantz said...

Great post! And good question. I agree with you that creative people tend to *have* angst. But then, everybody has tribulation and sorrow. I guess the difference is that creative people analyze these emotions in themselves and others, memorize them, and record them.

That's what all my poetry has ever been, and I put angst into my novel writing, too. But, inspired by some great writers of our time who have put a light-hearted bend in their books, like Rachel Hawkins and Kiersten White, I try to mix the angst with laughter. It's a reminder to me as much as to my characters not to take life too seriously. And I need that reminder!

I'm looking forward to next week's post about emotions. :)

Golden Eagle said...

I can write when I'm feeling depressed and/or anxious, but I can also write when I'm feeling cheerful. It depends--I don't think that all artists need to have angst, but I suppose it would add its own kind of quality to the work if they did have it.

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Both. But I will say, I think angst plays a part in us continuing to pursue our dreams. If we were all happy-scrappy all the time we wouldn't be so earnest about getting our work to publication. (That's my opinion, at least.)


Jemi Fraser said...

Good question! I'm not sure. I'm not an angsty person for the most part - I tend to be pretty upbeat. But angst makes for good stories and it's fun to write. So we probably need at least a little angst!

Just another Jane Doe said...

Interesting question. I am completely 'emo', as my better half would put it, and I absolutely love to write angst. However, the world has judged me to be much better at (upbeat) humour, and I struggle to write if I am depressed.

As usual, the universe has the last laugh.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! Yes, I do believe wonderful art can come from pain and angst. However, for myself, I need to be in a positive spot to write. Otherwise, I hate everything and lose all motivation, LOL!