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Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer? 
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Post Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
I've enjoyed writing stories and poetry most of my conscious life and it has occurred to me that the only thing that COMPELS me to write is a moment in which I feel so much emotion that I can't deal with it. Whether I am overwhelmingly happy or in complete dispair, its when I'm left or right of center that I feel inspired. Does anyone feel capable of writing when they are just in normal life mode? Do you think most writers have wild and severe mood swings, are overly sensitive or dramatic? ..... or is it just me....



Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:41 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
IMHO, having wild mood swings in not helpful for writers. Few writers I know of were able to write when they were seriously depressed. If a person feels hopeless they don't see solutions, so why write? (Besides, how many writers have destroyed themselves with drugs and alcohol?) If a person is feeling great, on the other hand, why question the way things are, why look for insight and answers to human existence?

I'll put it this way: Writers produce important works when they are in touch with reality - so their vision is based in truth - but cannot make peace with it. (I'm reading Shakepeare's sonnets and he certainly wasn't at peace.)

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Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:05 am
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
Perhaps... I think of that Garbage song "I'm only happy when it rains" when I think of some of my favorite writers. I am sure there are some writers out there who simply write and their inspiration comes from some other wellspring than dissatisfaction or byronesque love. I would love to hear what some of those other inspirations might be. The fact that it is difficult to actually write a novel when you are depressed could be the reason I haven't written one yet, but I have it half written in my mind already. What are your thoughts?



Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:24 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
poettess wrote:
I've enjoyed writing stories and poetry most of my conscious life and it has occurred to me that the only thing that COMPELS me to write is a moment in which I feel so much emotion that I can't deal with it. Whether I am overwhelmingly happy or in complete dispair, its when I'm left or right of center that I feel inspired. Does anyone feel capable of writing when they are just in normal life mode? Do you think most writers have wild and severe mood swings, are overly sensitive or dramatic? ..... or is it just me....


I think writing is therapy for many writers, so that the writing process would actually help them to stay balanced. I know that Vonnegut said something to this effect. There's a persistent myth that says something along the lines that great writers are all alcoholics, which goes along with the title of this thread. Hemingway, who was an alcoholic, is often cited as an example. But I would say Hemingway was a great writer despite his drinking.


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Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:41 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
Interesting article!

http://www.unhooked.com/sep/writers.htm

An excerpt:

Quote:
The prototype in American letters of the alcoholic writer as tragic hero is Ernest Hemingway. The newest biography of Hemingway by Kenneth Lynn deals very forthrightly with his drinking. Hemingway had the same capacity for alcohol that his characters did, and in The Sun Also Rises Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley drank three martinis apiece before lunch, which was accompanied by five or six bottles of red wine.

In 1939, Hemingway was ordered to cut down on his drinking. He tried to hold himself to three Scotches before dinner but he couldn't do it and, in 1940, he began breakfasting on tea and gin and swigging absinthe, whiskey, vodka and wine at various times during the day. He even let his boys drink hard liquor when one of them was only 10.

His alcoholism brought on hypertension, kidney and liver diseases, edema of the ankles, high blood urea, mild diabetes mellitus and possibly hemochromatosis, recurrent muscle cramps, chronic sleeplessness and sexual impotence. He shot himself to death at age 62.

William Faulkner, who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1950, was hospitalized innumerable times for alcoholism. Then there were Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Robert Lowell, Eugene O'Neill, John O'Hara, O. Henry, Conrad Aiken, John Berryman, Edmund Wilson--all acclaimed writers in the 1930s. All had trouble with alcohol.

Sometimes it seems that no American writers escaped the bottle.


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Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:12 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
Yes... so perhaps the world is too much with writers and they write because they can't handle the truth so to speak... but then there are lots of "fluff" writers so it can't be ALL of them.

Thanks for your inisight



Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:29 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
The thing I don't get about Hemmingway - yes, he's a great craftsman - is that I don't feel he ever worked through his pain, and therefore never showed us a way to come to terms with the pain of human existence. IMHO, he didn't have a unique way of seeing the world and all the craziness in it.

What I want from a writer is to be enlightened, to be encouraged that life is worth living.

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Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:47 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
So what you are saying is that a good writer is not only unbalanced but idealistic...morose yet still yearning for things to work out in the end. I admire those unbalanced writers who can uncover the ugly truth in life... like Gaiman... or even George RR Martin.... like they are seeing things through a lens of truth instead of idealism. We have a tendancy in western society to focus on the climactic tale of triumph, but we seldom live these kinds of lives. Is ignorance bliss? Escape fiction sells...



Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:41 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
I think Hemmingway was self-medicating. He was off-balanced like a lot of great writers. I see Vonnegut mentioned and he suffered terribly.
Virginia Woolf, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Viv Eliot, and if my brain were working better I'd be remembering more. They all had mood swings. Louisa May Alcott said she went into a "vortex" where she wrote for two weeks at a time without sleep and drinking only tea.
There was a psyc study done on writers and bipolar. There is a higher incidence of bipolar among writers then in the general population.
So, guess it would be my advice to write when the highs strike. Would be interested to see what you write.



Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:29 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
On sevcond thought, Don't write on the highs. Think of your physical health.
There are medications out there to even out the highs and lows and then you can write without the grief of either



Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:52 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
But this is the fear Weaver... what if I take medication and no longer feel like writing? I only feel inspired to write when I am at a polar edge of emotion. If I am in the middle I will no longer be interesting or passionate about anything. I honestly think that having mood swings defines who some people are and gives them their muse. Its the same with ADHD people... the energy and instant switching of focus allows them to excel at some jobs where others might have a difficult time of it. Maybe I should just accept who I am and prepare for it... ride the wave.



Thu Jan 28, 2010 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
I used to be so afraid that curing my emotional angst and highs and lows would affect the way I think, so I put off therapy and doctors visits as long as I possibly could. Eventually though, it got to the point that my writing and thinking when I was down was so horrible, more than just bleak and cynical. So I got up the courage to go ask questions, I talked to my therapist for a good hour about nothing but studies done on medications and how they alter moods and thoughts. I found a medication that could help me with the ceratonin but not change my mind.

You really have to keep an eye on your change in moods though, but from my experience my writing has actually gotten better because my mind is clearer, and I think just the same as I always have.


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Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:22 am
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
Hmrush,

I think you have found the perfect balance. Am glad to hear your creativity stayed with you. It makes sense that your art is part of your you-ness.

Poetess,

I hope you do see a therapist and get past the understandable fear of losing some part of you. But, you would be able to concentrate AND tell the world what you want to say. Good luck to you!!! I hope to read some of your writing.



Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:20 am
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
I think you are right poetess, to the extent that being creative means, for most of us, stepping outside the norm. It means avoiding clichés and stereotypes, and being able to see the world in a new and perceptive way. I think as humans we tend to symbolize and do a lot of shorthand style notation of the observed world around us. This can be useful in a functional sense, but it can also mean missing a lot.

Getting “unbalanced” is easier for some than others. Taking a camera and sitting in a park and waiting for just the right light conditions for a photo is enough for some. Meditation is a method of pulling us out of our day to day groove as well. Here in the west we tend to be more concrete and literal, and so it is more common to see the stock image of the creative writer hunched over a keyboard with a whisky bottle by their side, Hemmingway fashion. In other words, stepping outside oneself requires more drastic measures.

One’s glass can always be seen as both half empty and half full. Feeling strong emotion means to some extent being more alive, and being more alive can feed the creative spirit. But the universe doesn’t like to give away anything for free, and filling your glass to the top means there will be no air left in your container. Strong emotion, carried to enough of an extreme, can be destructive. So there is the tricky part: how much feeling is enough, before one starts to get undesirable effects? It’s a very personal question. Sometimes there is an inner voice that is enough for us, and sometimes talking to a skilled person is the ticket.


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Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:10 pm
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Post Re: Do you have to be "unbalanced" to be a writer?
Thank you all for your insight. I don't think that I'm unbalanced enough to need medication at this point. I do get fairly morose but always manage to pull myself out of it. I will certainly keep in mind my options if things get unmanageable.

I was reading an article in the NY Times (nytimes.com/2010/01/29/books/29salinger ... r.html?hpw) about the late J.D. Salinger and it really brought home my thoughts on how disturbed some of the truly deep and insightful writers of our times were and are. I will use this muse to my best advantage and will leave you now with one of my favorite J.D. Salinger quotes...

“Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behaviour. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as some day, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.”
- J.D. Salinger



Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:56 pm
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