Writers are an unhappy bunch.
Do you know the phrase addicted to misery? It’s a ridiculous notion. WHY would an unhappy person want to stay that way? To be unhappy is to not like the state of things – life circumstances, relationships, even oneself. So shouldn’t an unhappy person want to strive to change their circumstances in order to like the state of things – in other words, to be happy? Of course, many circumstances are out of our control, but others aren’t – and shouldn’t we at least try, or at the very least want to change those ones? Being addicted to misery basically means to be happy being unhappy – a ridiculously contradictory situation. So how can we be addicted to misery?
I don’t know. But I get it.
Unhappiness breeds creativity. Sometimes. And when it does, damn, does it feel amazing! Pulling a really great idea out of a really bad day, feels tremendous. I’ve never been on pills for my mood, but I have doubts as to wether the best mood medications can rival the feeling of a creative breakthrough after a long, dark day (or days, or months, or years). The sun comes out, and the bad days are worth it. The misery is an acceptable price. The want to change dissipates.
But of course, creativity is only half the puzzle of creation. The other half is work. And while creativity comes from misery, productivity doesn’t.
And I get this, too.
When I am anxious, unhappy – and yes, drunk – I get ideas. But when I am calm and happy, I get things done.
There’s another cliché that comes to mind here: a happy worker is a productive worker. And what seems to work in the corporate world, also works in the self-employed, starving artist world – at least, in my self-employed, starving artist world. After all, there is much, much more to being a writer than getting ideas and writing them down. I don’t need to be ecstatic about editing, researching, publishing, marketing, planning, and all the other things that go into the business of being a writer. But if I’m going to do them well, I at least need to have a clear mind.
But the high of the breakthrough beckons. And the dark cycle continues.
In regards to the notoriously great and miserable writers (I’m looking at you, Hemingway), it may be that their greatness came out of their drunk, depressed stupors. But how much more greatness could have come out of not dying? At least, not prematurely.
What do you think? Does happiness have anything to do with writing? Does misery?