Friday, December 30, 2011
Writing and Peace
It's true that being a writer can help us get perspective on our own lives. Don't get me wrong: I'm just as apt to get caught up in my own little psychodramas as the next person. But, I think that understanding how narrative functions means that I can, usually, eventually, claw my way to some sort of understanding that whatever I'm going through can be narrated in different ways. Therefore, I can come with a more functional, healthy narration. We all do that already, when we say things like, "It wasn't meant to be," or "I can do better." Writers just have bigger, fleshier versions of these self-narrated outcomes to help us cope.
But as any of you who follow super dramatic writers on Twitter probably know already, we don't often use our powers for good. Because, on the other hand, too much peace in writer's life is never a good thing.
The fact is that many of us, though not all, mine our personal lives for nuggets of narrative gold. And that means that we're oftentimes looking for a reach new source of dramatic ore. Indeed, the scenes I'm most happy with in my writing are usually scenes that pick up an emotional frisson from my own experience. It'll be completely distorted in terms of actual events, but I've injected a totally fabricated scene with a grain of emotional essence that, at least to me, is real. And I think this injection of experiential truth helps makes such scenes real to my readers.
Meanwhile, this process becomes, in itself, a weirdly curative act. First of all, when I experience something negative (or positive, for that matter) I'm able to get some good distance by inevitably thinking, "Wow, this will be great to write." And then comes the second part of the equation, the writing, in which I'm usually able to exorcise, or at least spank about a bit, some of my demons. Even better is when I can indulge in a good memory, or a good experience, and get to the center of why it made me happy, or a better person.
Peace, I've discovered, has never been something I've particularly admired or for which I've strived. Instead, I've always taken a Faustian view of things--that there's something to be said for wanting, and working, and dreaming, and fidgeting. It means we make mistakes, but at least we're alive.
Our struggles, then, give us something to write about and for others to read. Our demons are our friends, and peace something to be kept at arm's length, for fear it might dull our perceptions.