Posted by & filed under Writing and Writers. 15 comments

Writers are an unhappy bunch.

At least, that’s our reputation. But it’s a welldeserved one, or so it would seem.

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?

15 Responses to “Writers and Moods”

  1. attentionanonymous

    I do agree that inspirations for a lot of my writing comes out of bitter thoughts and miserable circumstances. However, the best writing experience I’ve had in my life has come at a time of complete sobriety over the last year following some terrible life-changing events. I take the memory of pain and loss and turn it into the eternal words of wisdom and lessons learned. Those are the words I hope will be shared and cherished. Productivity is much more likely when one is well-rested, clear of thought and genuinely calm and “happy.” Writing is productive in more ways that getting fingers to keyboard and cranking out the words that will be posts that will be marketed that will be read. Writing is productive in that it gets out what would otherwise be held in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing and misery. Truly thought-provoking.

    • aeliusblythe

      ….the best writing experience I’ve had in my life has come at a time of complete sobriety over the last year following some terrible life-changing events. …..Productivity is much more likely when one is well-rested, clear of thought and genuinely calm and “happy.”….

      So I’m not crazy then? Some of the best, most productive times for me were when I was calm and healthy and had it all together. But I find that I need to remind myself of that – that when I take care of myself, the writing will follow. I know that it’s true, but it’s hard to trust it. I get wrapped up in my writing and, even if I’m not being as productive as I could be I just keep thinking Just keep working. Just keep working. Just keep working. And the cycle continues….

      Calm and sober isn’t really the norm, for me and I tend to forget what it’s like working under those conditions. :-(

      • attentionanonymous

        I would say you are far from alone in this experience. In my experience, true growth comes when you move beyond the immediate pleasure or pain of the situation, and move instead into a place where you can reflect and decide a course of action. You do not need the pain to get to that place. You only need the ability to experience life. Don’t let the desire to write get in between you and the desire to live.

  2. tmacmccrea

    Its all about balance… but I would take happy and uninspired over being miserable any day.

      • Hoda

        Hmm, off the top of my head, here are some books I’ve read in the past few months and rlaely enjoyed. They run the gamut from speculative scifi to gritty urban fantasy to escapist fantasy gay mysteries to lighthearted romance. A common thread is that I enjoy strong female characters who don’t play into sterotypes (although not everything I’m reccing is high on female characters), interesting world-building, and humor rather than nonstop angst.I’ve read over 250 new books this year, so when I say I enjoyed these, it means I *really* enjoyed them (Un Lun Dun would be at the top of the list, but I know you already read it).Urban FantasyThe Fever Series by Karen Mae Moning – dark and gritty, takes place in Ireland, doesn’t conform to usual urban fantasy tropes. Be warned though, the third and most recent book ends with a major cliffhanger, and it’s going to be a year until the next one! Young AdultAnything by Shannon Hale (except for her Austenland book). I seriously can’t pick a favorite because I loved them all so much! Reinterpretations of fairy tales.Sci-fiThe Disappeared Series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – incredibly fascinating world building. I can’t even think of how to describe them and do them justice.Straight-up RomanceJust One Of The Guys by Kristan Higgins – the heroine is in love with sports, is tall and athletic and muscular and proud of it, and has a billion male relatives – all of whom are cops and firefighters. I rlaely enjoyed this book, even though I have zero in common with her.Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas – a totally enjoyable historical romance. Lisa Kleypas rarely does me wrong, and this one was especially good.Romance with a Paranormal/Urban Fantasy twistThe Sensation Series by Nalini Singh – there are five of these out so far and I literally *inhaled* them, I enjoyed them so much! Well, I didn’t like the fourth one, but I adored the rest. She’s come up with such an interesting world! I am so sad it’s a year until the next book! Withdrawal!The Dirk and Steel Series by Marjorie M. Liu – a lot of her characters aren’t white – which is so rare in romance these days. Her characters are also satisfyingly *real* – they say things I would say and think things I would think. Driven by Eve Kenin – Futuristic, dystopic, apocalyptic romance, where most of the world is frozen over. Truck-driver heroine!Escapist FantasyThe Lord of the Fading Lands series by C.L. Wilson – this is the one exception to my strong and realistic female characters requirement. The main character is kind of a Sue, but I had a blast reading these anyway.Gay Mysteries/RompsThe Adrien English Series by Josh Lanyon (available online! Very worth it!)The Gumshoe, The Witch, and the Virtual Corpse (this one is only available used through amazon, but I’m super glad I got it, because it was extremely enjoyable)The Shadow of the Templar series (found online and *free* – wow, did I have a blast with these! Young hotshot FBI agent! Famous master thief! They solve crimes! And have capers! And hot sex! And there’s a team and they all rock too! I think all of the books so far clocked in at about 400,000 words. So, so much fun!If you’re interested in nonfiction, I’d rec Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, The Billionaires Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffery Steingarten, The Audacity of Hope, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, and The Know It All by AJ Jacobs (he reads the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica!)Okay, back to reading! Edited at 2008-11-11 05:08 pm (UTC)

  3. charlottecarrendar

    I write a lot of my more emotional pieces…..right at the start of that time of the month. Odd, but yeah, and the good part is, when I read it back, I can see the emotion in the characters. Odd, but true. Oh the joys of being a woman.

    • aeliusblythe

      Huh. That’s interesting. I’ve never taken particular notice of a….. uh, monthly…. pattern in my moods, but that’d explain things. It seems like knowing there was a regular pattern would help use mood to your advantage.

    • Tumpa

      would LovE (really lOvE) to do this. My honey (Tony) and I have been married for aolmst 10 years now. We met in high school and got married while in college. We have two children, one cat, two dogs and three walking sticks. We live in Huntington Beach and would make it happen for 5pm on Friday. Shhhhh . just so happened to buy a vintage inspired short wedding gown and green vintage heels for our vow renewal surprise that he doesn’t know is happening this summer just last week. Soooooo .how perfect would that be? He of course owns a few suits and a really cool vintage brown coat. I’m a florist by trade and could whip up a mock bouquet if you wanted. So let me know and i’ll send you a photo of the two of us. Thanks for your time. Have a good one. teri

  4. bledcarrot

    I agree with this. I’ve always had bouts of depression on and off since I was a kid, to varying ups and downs. It’s always been something I’ve embraced and has moved me creatively, particularly writing music. But I think there’s always been a part of me that has suspected I could end the moods, end the depression, with a simple decision. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve always felt that if I hardened myself a little, if I forced myself to focus only on the positives, I think I could do it as a life choice and be much ‘happier’ for it. But I’m distinctly aware of a certain trade off involved in this. Firstly it feels like a delusion. But I also feel like I would lose something, the creative insights that melancholy brings, the emotional connection, the honesty in your art. I don’t know if this is true for everybody but I certainly feel like it is for me. That has never been a trade off I’ve been willing to make. As I get older I think I get better at managing moods or depression or whatnot; I don’t slip right down to that place where nothing means anything as often now, that dull flatline where even art and music are bland and dead. That’s a scary place and I think I’ve learnt ways of staying out of there. But melancholy is sensitivity and sensitivity seems an important part of creativity for me, which is why the old cliché about suffering for your art perhaps rings true on some level. To be creative you need to be open and to be open you need to be vulnerable, to let in and dwell on the negative as well as the positive, or you’re only getting half of the story.

    • aeliusblythe

      . . . Firstly it feels like a delusion. . .
      I get this. And I’m inclined to agree. Sometimes, anyway. I used to be very into the “positive thinking” whatnot, and it was successful in making me feel better. But while it helps with certain aspects of productivity (like not laying in bed hating the world), it made me ignore others. The fact is, writing IS hard work, it IS unpleasant, it IS depressing and discouraging and stressful, and tons of other bad things, in addition to the good things. And when I am miserable, my whole mindset is everything sucks, so just keep doing it because there’s nothing better… Not a healthy mind set, but one that does help me face the discouragement and difficulty of writing.

      “. . . But melancholy is sensitivity and sensitivity seems an important part of creativity. . . “

      Yes, true. I do think all happiness and positivity can lead to a Mary Sue type of fiction: Everything is wonderful, everything that you want to happen, happens, everything works out in the end. And, of course, that doesn’t necessarily make for a good story.

      You actually reminded me of one of my own posts post that I’d completely forgotten about – this post from last year, where I talked about how I used to meditate and do yoga and be into the whole positive-thinking-empowerment thing. It was really interesting to go back and read. Even though I was talking about the same thing, that posts sounds VERY different from what I was thinking with this one…….. Interesting, I may have to revisit this topic.

      • bledcarrot

        Yeah interesting you say that, it’s something I’ve brought up with friends before who are big on meditation and whatnot, the idea that to some extent it might just be a form of escapism. Not that that’s not beneficial both in terms of mental health and world view, etc… But it comes back to the empathy thing I guess…and like you said, creating interesting characters and stories requires opening yourself to negative experiences to understand them. I like that quote in the comments of your other post, about leaving the door ajar to madness.

        • aeliusblythe

          Yeah, it’s a catch 22 isn’t it? You can have contentment and less empathy, or empathy and less contentment. If there’s a balance, I haven’t found it…

          • Roshan

            (Fort Wayne, Indiana) All across the United States, resteigred nurses are being saluted. On May 6, 2012, Chi Eta Phi Sorority Inc. Zeta Eta Chapter is joining the American Nurses Association in celebrating Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring, as part of National Nurses Week, which is held May 6-12, every year. The purpose of the week long celebration is to raise awareness of the value of nursing and help educate the public about the role nurses play in meeting the health care needs of the American people.In honor of the dedication, commitment, and tireless effort of the nearly 3.1 million resteigred nurses nationwide to promote and maintain the health of this nation, the ANA and Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc. are proud to recognize resteigred nurses everywhere for the quality work they provide seven days a week, 365 days a year.Chi Eta Phi Sorority Inc., Zeta Eta Chapter, kicked off National Nurses Week on Saturday, May 5, 2012 by hosting a luncheon which celebrated the fashions and programs of First Lady Michelle Obama in the Crown dining room at Kingston Care Center, presenting information on women’s heart health – Go Red for Women, and recognizing nurses in the community for excellence in Advocating, Leading, Caring which exemplify this year’s theme for National Nurses Week. Carmen Moore BSN, RN, community health nurse consultant for Parkview Community Health Improvement, received recognition for Advocating. Phyllis Bragg MSN, FNP, RN, interim director of nursing for MedTech College and Jernice Watson RN, BS, MBA Perioperative Nurse Manager for VA Northern Indiana Health Care System received recognition for Leading. Tamela Guyton, MSN, FNP, RN, nurse practitioner Parkview Physicians Group Auburn, received recognition for Caring.Chi Eta Phi sorority, an organization of professional nurses, advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice and mentoring new nurses. Tracie Jones BSN, RN, December graduate of St. Francis University, currently employed at University Hospital IU Health Systems and Alexandria Lightning BSN, to be graduated May 9 from IPFW, received recognition for Future Leaders.Annually, National Nurses Week begins on May 6, marked as RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of nursing as a modern profession. Chi Eta Phi Sorority will end National Nurses Week with a private cake and punch reception on Saturday, May 12.


  1.  Writers and Mood (2) « Cheapass Fiction
  2.  15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 2 | Cheapass Fiction - Welcome to the free world of fiction.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)