Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Does Angst Help You Write?

There is perhaps no archetype more persistent throughout the history of art and literature than that of the tortured artist. From the tragically real cases (like Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and David Foster Wallace), to self-conscious poseurs (who shall remain nameless), angst-filled writers in both fiction and real life are an enduring staple in culture.

Is there something to it? Is there a link between creativity and the darker sides of life? Does angst help you write?

For me, I can't get a lick done when I'm feeling down. But then again, my books involve corn dogs and space monkeys.

What about you?






186 comments:

exploringeliza said...

I'm with you there, for the most part. Having the energy of being in a good mood helps me get things done. But sometimes, when I'm angsty, I want to escape, deeper than reading something someone else has written, will allow. It's those moments that I NEED my writing, and can accomplish something, to boot.

No corn dogs in my novels, though. :)

Heather Rae said...

Not a bit! lol. I'm with you, when I'm feeling down, I can't seem to get anything done at all. And I write stories that are pretty deep. I've wondered this about other writers though, often thinking I must be the odd one out. :)

Anthony said...

No, angst never does it for me. I might write to escape my angst for awhile, but if I'm really wound up, I can't concentrate well enough to write.

Stephanie McGee said...

If I get myself bummed out or I'm in a down mood, I fall into a funk and can't get anything done. So, no angst doesn't help me.

Interesting question to pose.

Stephanie Barr said...

When I was in high school, I wrote almost exclusively tragic poetry. I've moved on and I like the stuff I wrote then.

But I can't write it any more. I'm not sad enough.

On the other hand, I have worked through bad things with fiction, but I don't really jump into the "zone" and write like mad unless I'm happy. Either that or I get happy while I'm there.

Nick Cross said...

I think the memory of angst is much more powerful than being in the middle of it - when your mood turns upwards again, it can be useful to dip into that emotional reserve. But writing can help to purge yourself of that mood too, although it does tend to make me even more hyper-critical than usual!

T. Anne said...

I'm so thankful when my characters are angry because I love to write with anger as my fuel. I can see your dilemma regarding corn dogs and space monkey's. Who could ever be mad at those?

James M Turner said...

There's nothing like a bit of connection to the dark recesses of your emotional self to provide some real depth to what you put down on paper. It's no accident so many cool bands come out of Seattle and Manchester (uk). It's raining all the goddam time, if that doesn't generate some angst I don't know what will!

Jeannie said...

I tend to write best when I’m completely pissed off. It focuses my thoughts. It might be because I can cut out my inner ‘nice’ and be ruthless in my editing. Then again it might be that usually by that point I’ve had several glasses of wine and all my inhibitions are lowered.

But yes, angst is good for my writing.

Charissa Weaks said...

When we write, our mood is often associated with that of our characters. It isn't always outside elements that make us angsty... If you write about a dark world, you must put yourself in that dark world. And that can be a rough place to exist, my friends. It's when you stay there for days that things can get ugly.

Danielle La Paglia said...

I can't write when I'm angry, but I can when I'm depressed. Some of my writing is on the darker side of things so I think that makes it easier. I do believe that the torturous times of life are what feed a lot of my creativity - not that I'm angsty now, but the past angst is reborn in my writing.

Allison M. Dickson said...

It worked when I was a teneager, but after awhile, that well dried.

I still write about the darker sides of life and the human psyche, and some people could say my some of my writing is a bummer, but I don't write it from a depressed state. To be creative and insightful enough to do what I do, I have to be able to look outwardly at the world and see it through more than a blue, washed-out filter. Depression or anger turns me inward, and I can no longer see what I need to see.

Amy said...

It depends: if I'm depressed, disappointed, or worn out, no. I need energy to write, and generally a lot of it.

But grief, frustration, anger, and general whiny angst (*cough* not, of course, that I am ever, EVER whiny *cough*) do give me some extra oomph most of the time. I don't know if it's escapism or what, but I've done what I consider to be some of my best work in one or more of these states.

That said - I do have to be able to focus; if it's something really painful, I'd need a few days to process before writing would be an option.

g2bhapi26 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Keeton said...

Well, for my poetry, the dark, celtic side of my soul definitely influences. Don't get me wrong- I like light and airy stuff (and definitely prefer comedy over tragedy), but I have written some dark, dark, stuff all the same. Many of my WIPs have elements of darkness in them, but typically, things turn out alright in the end.

Rhyme on!

Tim Keeton
(Undead)Poet / Wizard / Teller-of-tales

Kayla Olson said...

I've always found angst more helpful for songwriting than with novel writing. Angst does nothing but distract me when I'm trying to work on my book.

I think it's because writing a novel can be so much like working a puzzle, or a difficult logic problem (especially in the revision phase, which is where I am right now). Things like that, in my experience, require a clear head. The ability to empathize with other people, put yourself in their shoes. Angst just muddles my brain and makes me self-centered.

With songwriting, on the other hand, everything about it sort of hinges on emotion. Angst is good fuel for lyrics, chords, and everything else that makes up a song.

Allison M. Dickson said...

I should add that being super ultra happy doesn't do it for me either, because then I can't sit still long enough to focus.

I just need to be level. Chill. Feelin' like everyting's gonna be aiight, mon. ;)

Amy Lundebrek said...

I don't think angst or feeling down helps at the moment of the writing, but I do think it helps a person to get in touch with some of the deeper more spiritual aspects of life, which then can come out later in their writing, music or art.

g2bhapi26 said...

When I'm feeling down, I am just as inspired as when life is upbeat. I'm a musician though, so I'm writing lyrics, not literary works. I don't know if this makes any difference, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

Can't write when I'm down--and the way it's going, I won't be able to write much until the industry and the economy improve. Also doesn't help when agents continue to ignore your queries or requested mss. and reject your work. Unless I hear some good news soon, it may be a long dry spell...I don't drink or smoke, but chocolate helps.

Steve Masover said...

Angst might help fuel what I'm writing about, depending. But coffee is what helps me write.

Chuck H. said...

No.

marjoriekaye said...

No. It doesn't.

Belinda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Angst doesn't help me write; it gives me something I need to write about.

Daisy Harris said...

I love writing humor because I can take that which is depressing or maked me angry and poke fun, not just at the thing, but also at my reaction to it. It's cathartic.

I've cried a few times writing sad scenes, but I don't think I write angst-y as a general rule. Like most things, I have more energy to write when I'm happy.

Ganz-1 said...

I sleep or play games or just not do anything when I feel down. Can't seem to be able to tap that angst feeling into good use.

Katherine Hyde said...

Having lived through hard times has given me both the experience and the character I need to draw on in my writing. But being depressed or stressed out in the moment absolutely kills my creativity.

The creative process itself--solving a thorny plot problem, for instance--can sometimes make me pull my hair out, but that's a different thing.

Nate Wilson said...

When I'm feeling down, I'm not up to writing, either. Then again, my book involves attack dogs and invisible monkeys.

I'll leave the angst to those who know what to do with it.

Sara said...

I read somewhere (I don't remember where so I apologize to whoever I am quoting) that "contentment is death to art". I don't think a person needs angst to be artistic, but they do need emotions. And curiosity. It is when we are too lethargic or content to ask what's next, or what if that we lose the ability to create. As long as we have strong emotions of any kind and want to convey them there will be art.
Spesh

Stacey Graham said...

I'm a humor writer so if I'm feeling angsty, I turn it into another chapter. It's cheaper than therapy and I won't wake up in a stranger's bedroom handcuffed to the bed after too much booze(again).

terryd said...

"Angst" has such a bad rep these days. It's akin to "whiny" and has such a superior tone when spoken that it's of no use except as an insult.

My favorite writing mood is a sort of glimmering melancholy. We're riding this bus to all-or-nothing, and it wouldn't be honest to deny the ache, but the wonder of the ride is the thing that keeps the words coming. Add a glimmer in the eye, laughter, a hand gesture to the reaper, and writing is just as worthwhile as any human endeavor.

Ted Cross said...

Not for me. The closest I get to a dark side is Pepsi and Hershey's with Almonds. I have loads of creativity, too, with passions for music (guitar, piano), art, photography, chess, and loads of sports besides writing/reading.

I suppose there could be a connection between people who push themselves a LOT harder than others do and having a dark side.

Bill said...

I think it's a mixed bag, as others have noted. Certain emotional states contribute well to certain scenes and perspectives, and that has been a muse for me more than once.

Mostly, these days, I draw upon the memory of how events made me feel and then twist it up a bit for the scene.

For those who don't write when having a bad day, here is rule # 3 "Give yourself permission to write crap."

No matter my mood beforehand, I always feel better after finishing a scene. It's just too easy to find an excuse to NOT write, and to overcome that inner mental block is satisfying (and will ease the aforementioned angst).

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't think I could write without angst. My characters go through the wringer, so I need to have an idea of what that feels and looks like. Being down also helps motivate me to write, as long as I'm not too down. I can write in almost in any mood, but to make my stories real, I have to return to those uncomfortable places.

Widow_Lady302 said...

I have dealt with depression all f my life, and have found that while in the midst of a depression I shouldn't even try to write. However, on the fringes of it headed out of a bad spell, I have found it easier to connect emotionally to my characters and give them dimension. Also, a thought I had during bad spot, or the circumstance even might inspire something.

C. N. DeLong said...

Often when I am down I come up with my best ideas. It makes me think about how different people would react when they are down. Which characters will give in to the depression or which ones will try and fight it. Many times what happens is it will give me a good story idea that lifts me out of the funk.

Jeannie Moon said...

I'm emotional and since I write romance, that's a good thing. But angst? Not so much. I don't do dark and dreary well. I write best when I'm happy. I'll put on the chirpiest music in the iPod and the words flow.

Zee Lemke said...

Not angst, in the self-imposed "why isn't my life making me happy?" sense, but things that bother me make me write. The death of a young man I knew and a friend's coming out as trans gave me the momentum to finish a novel. I don't get inspired on my own behalf.

Douglas Morrison said...

I'm an optimist. I write about positive and humorous situations. When a dark moment arises, I find it harder to write.

Anonymous said...

I have written myself out of angst, letting the story lead, and sometimes, the result has been an interesting story.

And, I have boxes of letters and correspondences kept from a dark time that tell a certain tale of history that may or may not serve something a long time in the future.

Most of the time though, writing from anst has been more futile (therapeutic at best and not worthy of anything more) and gets tossed away.

It is not possible for me to write my funny or magical or lighter projects or even edit with a clear-to-the-project mind when I am angsty.

Joann Swanson said...

I write about the darker side of life and angst freezes me. The cheerier I am, the darker I can write. Go figure.

Jane said...

No way. The creativity comes out when I feel safe and happy. However....a deadline does produce a certain type of panic that does help!

Jane/StickFiggy

D.G. Hudson said...

No, angst doesn't help me write. I can't write when I'm down either. The brain gets stuck in agonizing mode.

Perhaps the emotional attachment that a writer or any artist puts into his work contributes to the angst. (This could also be due to the writer's own sensitivity, or level of confidence.)

I try to capture that feeling of 'angst' for my writing, but it's an elusive creature to define.

I consider it one of the side effects of pursuing a creative endeavour such as writing, painting, or performing.

KaelaQLC said...

I wish I could write through a bad mood. Unfortunately when I'm going through something in my head I can't bring myself to write...if I could I would probably be able to bring myself through it faster!

Suzi McGowen said...

I would say no, I can't write when I'm down. However, I look at the evidence and see that I wrote my 97,000 word novel while my marriage was ending and stopped writing and blogging for about two years while I was in a better space.

Now I'm writing again, and I'm worried if that means I'm unhappy and don't know it. (I didn't last time.)

Kaitlyne said...

To be honest, not really. If I'm worried and upset and stressed, I tend to second-guess my writing more and have a harder time putting together anything worthwhile. Also, if I'm writing something with a lighter tone, being angsty just makes it harder to get into the narrator's head.

In general I'd say the only emotion that I really like to use in my writing is anger. That's probably because I'm not someone who expresses my anger well in real life, so if I get angry and have something angry to write, it gives me a really fun way to let out the emotion.

I much prefer to read when I'm feeling down. That's almost always a sure-fire way to pick me up. :)

Anonymous said...

Angst is great for artists -- Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought, or so a little birdie told me.

But when I was younger, I confused boredom with angst. The resulting writing stunk up the page.

Joanne Sheppard said...

No. I am never less creative than when I am depressed or anxious.

I do hear a lot of people saying that their writing is inspired by their own misery and heartbreak and that it always leads to an outpouring of creativity. But I rarely see the results... and when I do, well, let's just say I think that there are some people who think that their angst helps their writing, but in actual fact, it's more a case of their writing helping their angst - ie, what they're producing is actually just their own form of therapy, rather than anything close to a good piece of writing.

That isn't true for everyone, obviously - plenty of writers have produced amazing work out of the depths of misery. But just as many writers have produced self-indulgent tosh that would have been fine for a personal journal make horrid reading for everyone else.

Of course, if you're going to write about, say, bereavement or a broken heart or terrible depression, it helps to have suffered such a thing oneself - but for me personally, it's only useful in hindsight, not when it's actually happening to me.

Missed Periods said...

Like you, I can't write when I am feeling down. I can't focus. However, having had angst-filled moments provides me with material.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I think if you've suffered tragedy and grief, it adds depth and compassion to your work. While going through it, I can't imagine writing, though. It's after.

Stacey said...

I'm a graduate student working toward a PhD in cognitive psychology, and last year I wrote a paper for my psychopathology seminar on the purported link between mental illness and creative genius. I uncovered a lot of interesting findings--namely that the "link" between the two seems to be one endorsed by popular culture, but it is not upheld in the scientific literature.

Most of the time, true depressive or manic states are counterproductive in terms of creative endeavors. This isn't to say that those suffering from mental illness and "angst" don't find creative inspiration in their struggles, nor that their experiences aren't valuable or thought-provoking when they sit down to write--it only means that productivity becomes difficult or near impossible while in the throes of a deep depression or manic episode. The intense psychological states detract from motivation, concentration, thought coherence, etc--all of which are valuable when trying to write.

You can read more about my research into the topic on my blog, where I wrote a series of four "creativity and psychopathology" posts: http://psychofwriting.wordpress.com/tag/psychopathology/

~Stacey

Juice in LA said...

Throw me onto Team "Happy Writer", I write when I am feeling good and have no distractions. Although sometimes an inspiring topic can pull me out of a funk.

Its like they say in the book of Ellie: "Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy , and happy people don;t kill their husbands, they just don't."

probably works for corn dogs too!

Sara said...

I think it has kept me writing. My mental health is much better if I'm writing, no matter what the story is. I would have quit years ago otherwise.

That said, I find I need a stable secure life to do good work and finish projects. I never could experience emotional storms and write well at the same time, I just had to save them up as material for later. I'm with Flaubert: "be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois [and he hated them], so that you may be violent and original in your work".

Remus Shepherd said...

Not sure that you would call it angst, but I am powered by anger. Anger about my childhood, my relationships, the (non-writing) career I chose, etc. I turn that anger into energy that fuels my creative projects.

I'm seldom what you'd call 'down'. But I'm often 'seething', and it's at those times I am most creative.

JES said...

I anguish quite a bit over whatever I'm working on. But I can't afford to do so over the circumstances of my life -- either its general arc, or the specifics of the everyday (like "Once again the radiator in my drafty garret is not working! O woe is me!"). If I've done this, when I later read back over those passages, invariably they will reek with the characters' self-absorbed POVs. Showing goes right out the window.

Karen C said...

I don't know if angst makes me write better, but it got me to start writing in the first place. I've got 3 wonderful kids with enough doctors to staff Hopkins and some fun learning disabilities thrown in so we don't get bored. Writing=cheaper than therapy (spent all the money already anyway)

A.C. Tidwell said...

Not even a little. Sometimes writing really is the only option for me. Whether it is due to depression or angst, I write through the follies of life. But I don't write well during these periods. Honestly, I have a tinge of A.D.D. so I must mentally prep for writing, but isolating everything else out. Having my mind in the right place is just as important as having the right tool when cooking.

salima said...

i actually really like this post, because i think as harmless as the sentiment can seem on the surface, the notion that you have to be deeply depressed to be creative does a whole lot of damage, particularly to young people. i think it's more accurate to say you have to be perceptive to be creative (and that of course to perceive can often make you sad), but that you can be a balanced person, experience the full spectrum of emotion, and that this makes the most personally fulfilled artists---people who are capable of evolving and whose art reflects motion rather than stasis. thanks for bringing this up nathan!

patlaff said...

Angst spurred the overall story arc for the third novel I wrote and it sparked some great little scenes, but actually writing the damned thing required a much more level head.

llburk said...

Angst - No.

A little Crown and Coke - Yes

Sara Murphy said...

I bowl great when I'm full of angst, but I couldn't write two coherent sentences if my life depended on it. I need a calm, peaceful place in which to write. I can’t write while moving either. As a passenger in a car or plane, I can’t come up with anything. Tweeting on the move is beyond me.

reader said...

I do think there's something about David Foster Wallace's particular type of genius and the way his brain worked, or sometimes didn't. I mean, he practically created a new way of writing, so specific to him and him alone. I doubt it will ever be equalled.

Also, there's a reason I don't read chic lit -- if something's "too happy" it doesn't feel real to me, but feels like something I like to call a Stepford Book. You can read it but never really escape into it because it doesn't resonate. Characters that come alive are multi-dimensional, and therefore have some angst, some regrets, some faults. And I think in order to create that, you, as a writer also have to have at least a bit of that in your own life.

Dawn Pier said...

I believe that there are two levels of emotion that fuel my writing. At a deeper, more persistent level is the angst that got me writing in the first place. It is a nagging anxiety that stems from a desire for my life to have meaning and purpose. I believe that writing helps to fulfill that purpose and therefore, when I am actively writing the anxiety is subjugated by the specific emotions necessary to write whatever it is I am working on. But the angst is always there, humming under the surface like a little motor that energizes and drives the writing. If I'm not writing, it begins to whir out of control until the buzzing drives me back to the page.

Ulysses said...

Angst helps me write long, involved, introspective passages that are the equivalent of weeping ink onto the page (okay, pixels onto the screen). The resulting prose is beautiful, sad, and heart-breaking. It is also overblown, overwritten and overindulgent.

I suppose it helps me write, but it doesn't help me write well. I usually delete those bits and wait to write about being miserable when I'm in a better mood.

The irony. It isn't just for pressing pants anymore.

Anonymous said...

not much for writing if the mood is too low. i need to be energised to be creative.

Maurice Broaddus said...

i'm afraid i'm a living cliche. if i don't have angst to exorcize in my work, it feels passionless to me.

then again, my fiction has always been an outlet for me (read: cheap therapy).

ilyakogan said...

When I started working on my current novel my father was dying from cancer. Half through it he died. I put it away for two years and only now finished it. So my answer is yes and no. Some angst helps you create. Too much angst and it consumes you and there is no energy left for anything else.

flibgibbet said...

Emotional experiences give you something to write about. If you've never experienced certain states of mind, how can your characters experience them convincingly?

But I don't believe anyone creates anything intelligent when they're in the middle of a meltdown; they write about it afterwards once they've had a chance to mull it over and translate it into the more universal. (Otherwise, isn't it just navel gazing?)

I do find the myth itself insulting, though. I began my career as a fine-artist, and have been told innumerable times, "You can't be an artist, you're too normal", as if it was a job requirement. Or maybe if I was kookier, I'd be more legitimate?

I do tend to believe that most artists are thinkers, though. And most gratified when they're working on a project. Not everybody is wired to spend so much time alone with only their thoughts as company. Perhaps that's why non-artists think the bunch of us are angsty, brooding-types.

K. E. Carson said...

No, angst does not help me write. If I'm really upset or really angry, I can't sit down to write. I think my past experiences of angst and drama help me write, since I am a YA author and people kind of expect the drama and angst in my books, but while I'm upset? Never.

Anonymous said...

Well said, flibgibbet! (Hehe... I giggled when I wrote your name).

Thomas Taylor said...

Help me? Angst makes me write!

Josin L. McQuein said...

It helps me write snarky dialogue, but it's a hard space to get out of if you let it take over.

Carol Riggs said...

Unless I'm really in a deep deep funk, heck, I can write anytime. :) It's a good escape, and/or it gets good emotion into the manuscript. Angst doesn't work in the middle of a lighthearted scene, though!

swampfox said...

I'm almost always writing with angst. It's what happens when you have two sons constantly at each others' throats, an aging mother-in-law who doesn't speak any English and rattling off constant diatribes in Spanish of which I can't understand a single word, and a wife who comes home and the first thing she says is "Gawddamm, are you writing that stupid book again?"

Aidan Ryan said...

Angst does help me write, but only for certain kinds of writing. Angst gets old after a little while. Then again, I am 17, so angst is kind of my thing.

Marilyn Peake said...

Angst and sadness don’t help me write at all – both tend to block my finding the best words to write, actually. On the other hand, restless creative drive – which kind of feels like angst at times – constantly pulls me back to writing and keeps me sitting in my chair for very long hours.

MJR said...

I don't write when I'm feeling blue. Lately I've found that I've been writing best on my netbook on long car trips, while my husband drives, and we listen to oldies...so I guess it helps if I have few distractions and am feeling relaxed--and a bit nostalgic?

laura marie said...

I don't know that angst helps me write, but I know that a certain melancholy mood can sometimes still my mind enough to let creative thoughts bounce in. Such an interesting idea though!

Melody said...

The more depressed I am, the worse my writing is in both enjoyment and quality. However, writing can pull me out of a depression...

Ishta Mercurio said...

No. Angst does not help me write, except in the sense that I know that if I just get my butt in the chair and write something, it will make me feel better. But when I'm feeling angsty, I do not have the drive to write.

I do think, however, that the archetype (stereotype?) of the angst-ridden artist/writer stems from the fact that we have chosen to earn our living pouring our hearts into the creation of things that, most often, the majority of people will probably not want. We face a lot of rejection, and I think that lends itself to a higher proportion of angst among writers and artists than among other people.

Ronnie said...

This goes hand in hand with the myth that drugs aid some artists in the creative process. I call BS.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Not as much as I would have expected at one point. There was one angsty period in my life where I got a lot done on my novel, but that was because it gave me something else to focus on besides my personal woes. This is usually not the case, though; angst usually distracts me from doing anything else. I had to break some bad news about one friend to another friend last night, and my mind was shot for the evening. I was able to write a little bit, and was nearing my quota when I had to deal with the issue again, but it was not my best writing. It felt rather mediocre and uninspired, and I'm sure I'll wonder why I kept repeating myself once I look it over for revisions.

jesse said...

Liv B, the neuroscientist/writer, posted a tweet the other day about this issue. To paraphrase, there IS a link between creativity and depression, something in the dopamine uptakes...

Lori Benton said...

Does angst help you write?

No. It totally distracts me, drains my energy, and kills my creativity.

Nina said...

I have no trouble writing, as long as my house is tidy!

That being said, my best stories have come from those times I have been at my worst. These are the events I draw inspiration from. The people I meet, mostly the bad ones, are usually the protagonists in my stories. They're bastards and only exist to make your life hell. My MC's aren't really very joyful at all, because lets face it; Nobody wants to read about happy people!

Kathleen said...

Anger, for me, is counterproductive, but a little bit of depression for some reason is a huge motivator for my writing. I think it is because it is preferable to be in their world, at least temporarily, rather than my own if I am down in the dumps. Nine times out of ten my mood lifts considerably after a little writing so it's also somewhat therapeutic.

Rick Daley said...

It's a mix for me. For a current WIP, I wrote an emotional climax scene late in the evening while I was in a state of deep angst. The next day I dreaded reading the section back, but was surprised to find out that I had funneled my angst directly into the characters and the story without making it personal.

Of course there are plenty of times when I just drop an f-bomb and walk away from my laptop and question the whole intent of writing and storytelling to begin with.

Here's an awesome TED speech by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE) that touches on the subjects of inspiration and angst:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

SSB said...

I have to look on the bright side and inflict a little humor even if I am writing. or living, something dark.
If I allow myself to get depressed, I become paralyzed.

Angelia Lynn Schultz said...

I find that it's not the angst that helps in the actual writing...It's the angst that feeds the story, gives it its depth and human understanding of suffering of some sort.

I love corn dogs. But I don't write about them. ;)

abc said...

OH LAWD! I think angst absolutely helps you write, or be more creative, or whatever. And sometimes it can paralyze you. When I've been my most angsty (see: the twenties), I've felt more than ever the burning fire to create.

And now that I'm more calm, I'd like to think that I may not have the burning fire as much, but I have the experience and the knowledge to make something more meaningful. At least to me. Not the story of a girl who feels lost, but the story of a girl that gets lost and finds her way.

Oh, was that cheesy? sorry.

on the other hand, there is people like my husband. His angst turns him into a procrastinating self loather. He wants to create, but he worries that what he creates will never be good enough.

Interestingly, Dear Sugar addressed this issue--sort of--in a recent column. I recommend her words. Plus, she's an awesome writer!

http://tiny.cc/7rp9o

Anonymous said...

Angst drives me to write. It's essential. I write to relieve the pressure in my head. That said, I agree with previous comments: angst gives you material and maybe drive, but if you're too overwhelmed you can't write well. You can't do anything well. You have to get your head above water again to put your angst to good use. I love the quote from the film "Heat" with AL Pacino as Vincent Hannah: "I gotta hold on to my angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be." You have to see the scene in your head--leaning back in the chair, sunken cheeks,snapping his fingers. That's how I feel. Keep it close but don't let it eat you alive.

Dominique said...

I don't think I've ever tried writing while feeling deep and angsty, but I'm sure if I did, all my prose would come out angsty, which would just make me change them later. My current WIP isn't exactly kittens and moonbeams, but I don't think angst lends itself to producing the story's voice either.

Anonymous said...

Angst drives me to write. It's essential. I write to relieve the pressure in my head. That said, I agree with previous comments: angst gives you material and maybe drive, but if you're too overwhelmed you can't write well. You can't do anything well. You have to get your head above water again to put your angst to good use. I love the quote from the film "Heat" with AL Pacino as Vincent Hannah: "I gotta hold on to my angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be." You have to see the scene in your head--leaning back in the chair, sunken cheeks,snapping his fingers. That's how I feel. Keep it close but don't let it eat you alive.

Anonymous said...

Angst drives me to write. It's essential. I write to relieve the pressure in my head. That said, I agree with previous comments: angst gives you material and maybe drive, but if you're too overwhelmed you can't write well. You can't do anything well. You have to get your head above water again to put your angst to good use. I love the quote from the film "Heat" with AL Pacino as Vincent Hannah: "I gotta hold on to my angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be." You have to see the scene in your head--leaning back in the chair, sunken cheeks,snapping his fingers. That's how I feel. Keep it close but don't let it eat you alive.

Anonymous said...

Crud. Anonymous here. Didn't mean to post that three times. I thought it hadn't worked. Don't see how to delete extra posts.

Lisa Guill said...

If I am depressed or upset about something, I can't write a thing; however, if I am angry and feeling a bit snarky, the words just start flowing and I find I am at my most creative.

Stephanie Faris said...

Not me. I seem to write best when life is stable. Boredom is good for my creativity!

Writergirl said...

Like some others I think that past angst can be helpful for future writing but I can't write a word if my mood is low.

Elizabeth said...

Angst is key to the writing process, as is exhaustion, irrational overconfidence and bliss. I try to write regularly, regardless of my mood. (I'm a very moody person.)

This quote by Gloria Steinem helps me focus: "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else."

lora96 said...

Nah. If I'm preoccupied about something upsetting, I am useless in the realm of creativity.

This is not to say that I can't write after having a bad day, only that angst and cataclysm are not conducive to my process.

Kristi Helvig said...

Most of the comments here adequately convey my feelings about the subject, so I'll just add one thing. Space monkeys rule! :)

Annalee said...

It doesn't help me write, but it does help me sew. I have to be level and focused to draft my pattern, but it takes some deep geometric RAGE to get the fabric cut out.

Either that or I just hate math.

Anyway, back to the subject, I think this is another one of those places where writers can take a page from Stanislavski. Contrary to popular belief, he did not encourage actors to get emotionally worked up while on stage--it was a rehearsal technique. And like actors, I think writers can benefit from taking note of how their emotions manifest so that they can bring significant details to their work. Being observant about emotions when I'm not writing helps me more than being emotional when I am writing.

ritaliccious said...

I seem to be able to write when I'm down or feeling melancholy. Even if what I'm down about is the environment or the current state of our country, I find that the words flow directly from my mind to my fingertips and onto the screen. A lot of the time I'll try to write in my journal but inevitably I wind up going back to my computer since I can type faster than I can write.

But then again, my writing isn't all puppy dogs and rainbows.

Anonymous said...

I think creative people feel things more deeply, and it's either let it out or medicate it.

Eric W. Trant said...

Writing it out relieves the angst. It's called Getting your demons down on paper.

- Eric

Hannah said...

I generally write about the "darker side of life". I'm not that angsty of a person, though. I'm actually an optimist. However, as a writer, I think that the more emotional, angst-filled stories and characters are the ones that are the most interesting.

Of course, only if that angst is serious and real, none of that teenage angst crap throughout Twilight.

Travis Erwin said...

Not for me. When my house burnt I shut down creatively. It took lots of encouragement from friends and time before I could sit and write for longer than ten minutes at a whack. I was still in the doldrums when I won your contest for opeing paragraphs and that bit of affirmation gave me the fianl kick in the arse to get back in the groove.

That's a long way of saying both no to the question at hand, and thank you for the boot to the butt.

That book (The Feedstore Chronicles) for which the opening paragraph won is now complete and I am just embarking on the query road to what I hope will be Agentville.

WritersBlockNZ said...

I'm not sure if angst helps me write, but I think angst and the darker sides to my past are reflected subconsciously in my writing. It took me to realize that none of my YA characters had mothers and it had nothing to do with trending, or the characters needing to be independent. You write what you know, and if you know angst, grief, hardship or death, you are going to write about it.

texasapril said...

I have to say, I do think it helps...a lot.
I try to whip out my computer whenever I am feeling a "strong" emotion of some kind then find a spot in my book that involves that very emotion and translate how I feel, into the emotions of my character. It makes the characters feelings/emotions far more believable. Case and point. I am scared to death to fly. true story. but that is not the end...I pull out my laptop and write about my female MC's fear in a situation, drawing on my own fear. Good stuff.

Terry Towery said...

Good question, Nathan. It's kind of funny how it works out for me. No matter what kind of mood I'm in, really up or really down, once I start writing, the story takes over. When I finish for the day, I'm mostly just worn out -- but in a good way.

I guess writing is akin to therapy for me. It's a good deal cheaper, too. :)

Other Lisa said...

@Anonymous 9:52 AM: Angst doesn't help me write; it gives me something I need to write about.

I think this is pretty right on, for me.

I've never been able to find much link, personally, between being able to write when things are peaceful and being able to write when things aren't, though if things get too over the top, yeah, I'm not good for much.

I've read of studies that look at the link between creativity and mood disorders, and IIRC, what some of them found was that there was a higher degree of mood disorder in "creative" types, but that if you looked at their families, frequently there would be people with much more severe problems, i.e., crippling depression as opposed to milder forms. So the questions that raises are: do mild mood disorders spur creativity, and/or does engaging in creative work provide some sort of protection against more severe mood disorders?

I've also read that book by the guy with the really really long unpronounceable Czech name, "Flow" (the book, not the guy) who talks about how happiness is a quantifiable state, and people who are happiest tend to be engaged in activities where they are so focused that they lose the sense of "self," of ego, and when they complete the activity, they emerge with a sense of accomplishment and a greater, more positive sense of self.

I find that novel writing, as frustrating as it can be at times, is the sort of ridiculously complex activity that satisfies my brain. Even though it also makes me kind of crazy. It's a way of making sense of experience, a sort of self-excavation at times, of seeing patterns in overwhelming masses of data, of bringing order to an existence that can seem pretty chaotic and random.

I am not sure whether this all meets the definition of "angst," but there you go.

Regan Leigh said...

I write my best when I'm in a deeper or slightly darker place, but if I'm feeling too bad I can't get anything done. I'd say I'm on both sides of that fence. :)

I have noticed that when I'm in a darker place personally, I tend to write fluff. And I hate it. I'm not a fluffy writer -- except on those days. ;) It's almost like my mind says enough and forces me to write silly scenes I normally wouldn't.

Mimi said...

No. Doesn't help. My writer's voice is sassy, funny, light. So I'm mute when angst-y.

Cathi said...

I can write no matter what mood I'm in because I know once I get emerged in my story, the real world goes away. Though, I did kill off a character once when I was in a bad mood...but then I felt guilty and gave her a reprieve.

Sheila Cull said...

Me and angst go back a long way. But he's never around when I create and/or edit. He never shows up early in the morning and that's when I get my writing done. Angst is an afternoon type.

Steppe said...

I think this theme follows the "writing is a drug," line of logic. If your feeling terrible a good burst of writing can be very uplifting (adjective - therapeutic avoided deliberately) I am the only writer I know who begins writing within ten minutes of waking up. A myriad of problems are avoided that way. If I am truly tired or have real world activities to complete I don't write that day. Looking up the exact definition of angst I would now have to answer in the affirmative with a definite yes; even if the angst is only related to missing out on a potentially good burst of creative energy. Angst is essential and the self inflicted misery of exploring it is also essential. Even a good literary fiction writer should feel something inside died when they kill a character whose time has come. The stakes must be high for a good story. If I was to expand the angst concept using my first task of the day is writing method I would use a phrase like; engrossed in the zeitgeist of the world and people I have constructed, while taking each blow to my mostly noble and less noble characters very seriously so the survivors react and adjust accordingly. Yes angst is essential and must be as its definition implies be *acute*. Otherwise why bother.

Jen P said...

For me, because creativity stems from emotion not logic, we need to feel to write - whether it is drama, angst, passion or happiness - we need to get that aspect of the power of LIFE into our work. If I am in a very neutral state emotionally, I can't generate anything exciting on the page. For good writing I need to be in a very focused emotional state, which can be a positive or negative one. I think some of the great writers recognized this need for capturing the emotion of life in their writing, but not letting the emotional balance tip into the destructive and downward path of depression if the focus becomes too intense. I'm thinking of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice as a writer writing about art, or Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther.

Talei said...

Yes! A thousand times yes! Angst needs an outlet and writing is perfect, at least for me.

Great question!

Nick said...

No, sir, it does not. Positivity or negativity have no place in my writing. From where I stand, a man must be neutral. Emotion shouldn't craft a story. Negative emotion will make it take a spiral too far, and positive emotion will keep the story from going where it needs to go.

ThirteenthWind said...

I write differently when I'm angsting. My writing is more for my own benefit, like a personal therapy session than if I'm set and committed to writing for writing's sake.

Nick said...

Thinking on it, that might be a big part of why I write in the early morning. Nothing's really happened yet to influence me, so unless something big has happened the day before, I'm starting from square one on the emotional game board.

Scott said...

I used to procrastinate writing terribly, and wondered if my problem was that I was too happy with my life and needed some darkness and angst to fuel my inspiration.

I didn't go seeking it, but had a bad year, and couldn't write a single thing. Now I know that at least for the kind of writing I like to do, I need to be reasonably happy and content. I haven't written any HBWSG's yet, though. (HBWSG = Heart-Breaking-Work-of-Staggering-Genius)

Jil said...

Angst does not let me write- I'm too involved with whatever is bothering me.But after a good session of writing something filled with angst, that stays with me for the rest of the day and poor husband has to put up with it.
Many writers drank to help themselves=must try it some day but i don't really like the taste and pepsi has no effect at all!

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

When I'm painting the angst works, writing not so much.

Nicole MacDonald said...

Well.. when i'm writing angst I have to 'feel' it but if actually angsting then nope - doesn't mix well with creativity :)

http://damselinadirtydress.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I find I'm able to write a lot when I have a lot of emotion, mainly because the whole going around killing people thing doesn't work out so well beyond the boundaries of my imagination. The quality of said angsty writing is left up for debate...

Lora T.

Anonymous said...

It is weird sometimes I write my best when I have had a stressful day at work ideas flow effortlessly...on the other hand, maybe it influenced my YA characters breaking up every other chapter. After a crazy day when I sit in my chair turn on the computer an overwhelming peace surrounds me and an hour or so I get lost in my world.

wordsareforwriting said...

There have been a few short stories fuelled by angst. After midnight listening to Morrissey or The Smiths does quite nicely to set the mood for tales of love lost.

I feel the novel is fuelled by whatever I can muster sometimes!

Today the attitude to writing is procrastination.

I´ve been away all week and am not looking forward to picking up where I left off.

Mira said...

Well there are sort of two questions here.

The first is: is do you write when you're upset or depressed?

For me - no, although I suspect many do. But I can't write when I'm in a bad space.

The second question is: does unhappiness or emotional suffering contribute to your writing?

For me - it's why I write and it's what I write about.

I've had an unhappy life, for the most part, at times deeply unhappy. And in my job, I work with many people who have been dealt even harder hands than I have.

The drive to write for me can come from witnessing human suffering up close. When you see a deep level of human pain, it makes you want to do something, anything to make it better. You want to tell the world, try to influence it, try to heal it, try to make it better.

And when you suffer deeply yourself....I've been trying to capture this in words forever, and I probably won't be able to here. But when you are in deep emotional pain for long periods of time it changes you. It softens and cleanses. It's so hard to describe, but for me it's been like a pumice stone. It scrapes away the edges and makes the channels run clear and clean. You have access to something very deep within you, and that's the part of you that can come forth and speak through the creative process.

You also have something to say. You want to express your feelings and what you learned. For me, it's not catharsis, it's synthesis.

It's also, and this is the most important, giving meaning to pain. It's a sort of triumph to synthesize and translate what you've been through into something deeply meaningful that may touch others.

I got more serious and personal than I intended in this post, but this topic is a defining one for me.

For some reason, I'm imagining that some folks might give me a hard time for what I'm saying here. That's okay.

I'm not certainly not recommending that people suffer, by the way. But for those that have, I do think it deepens and influences their creativity in a powerful way. I think that is one of the reasons why human beings are creative - to try to give voice to power feelings that are frequently beyond words.

Anonymous said...

No. Angst makes me want to quit writing and take up drinking as a full time job. I have to be feeling good about what I do and my ability to do it. I journal when I'm angsty, but I wouldn't show that stuff to anyone because it's horrible whiny crap.

ryan field said...

Depends on the kind of angst you're talking about. If there's a valid reason, like you're contracted to write a 60,000 word novel in three weeks, this type of angst will get you moving very fast.

But angst with regards to personal problems is not a creative incentive.

Lillian Grant said...

Depends what I am writing. My other half forgot my birthday for the third year running a couple of years ago. I got really miserable and annoyed and turned it into a novel about a woman whose husband not only forgets her 40th birthday but walks out on her the day before. It's a very dark romantic comedy but hey an e-publisher picked it up. My husband calls it my mid life crisis novel. So sometimes being in a dark place can be a good thing.

Amanda Sablan said...

I write best when I'm in a good mood, for sure. But I draw on all the not so pleasant experiences in my life to write some of my more dramatic scenes, and I don't care if that suddenly depresses me.

The things I do to ty to write well. :]

Anonymous said...

wow Mira. First, you hit the nail on the head, "there are two questions here", then you blew me away, "It softens and cleanses. It's so hard to describe, but for me it's been like a pumice stone. It scrapes away the edges..." I've never thought about writing like this, but your sentence summed my writing up for me and touched me. Thanks.

Tess Cox said...

Angst helps me go deeper. There is nothing that fuels the fire of my writing like needing to process something deeply on paper. The contents of my heart pour out from a well of angst when I'm "hard put" to deal with a moment of inner turmoil or struggle. In writing fiction, my characters thank me for taking them deeper. In writing non-fiction, my friends do.

stacy said...

It's much harder for me to write when I'm worried about the rent. General angst I can live with, but when I'm worried about my survival, it's hard to produce. I do it anyway in the hopes I'm—to paraphrase Stephen King—not shoveling shinola from a sitting position, but it's tough.

Kathryn said...

That's when I do my best writing, really. Give me a bad day and I'll give you pages of writing. I find it makes some more emotionally charged scenes more authentic. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira @4:54 PM,

The comment you wrote here is exquisite. Maybe you’ve found your own personal writer’s voice, even more so than in humor. It’s as good as any passage in the best literary novel I’ve ever read. You’re a very talented writer, Mira, both in humor and seriously meaningful writing. And I’m sorry that you’ve suffered. You’re such a decent and moral person, always shining a light onto questions of right and wrong. I’m so glad you’re a regular contributor to the comments section of this Blog. **hugs**

Curtis Moser said...

In my most reflective moments I tend to write slower, but the writing is more honest. I think for someone like me, the darker my life is, the more I am able to get in touch with my soul, and if I am able to channel that into my writing, so much the better. It's not an easy trick, but a lot of my best writing is when I'm able to connect with the deepest parts of me. That can happen when I'm wallowing through the lowest spots in my life, or when I'm experiencing some of the highest. It's all experience, and the more experience I collect, or the more true emotion I feel, the more honest my writing is.

Jaci said...

There is a definite link between creativity and emotions. I've read that the human brain processes both creativity and emotions in the same region. Those who are highly creative have developed that part of the brain to be more accessible and more active. It only makes sense that those who create deeply also feel deeply since that is the area of the brain they tap into often.

Aimee said...

I'm definitely one of those tortured artists. Back in the good old days, all the geniuses were crazy, but lately, many "normal" people have been publishing books. All these books are pretty cheerful and not very intellectual, such as Twilight.
I feel like writing helps me sort out my angst to cheer me up a little bit. But when I am in a good mood, I'm usually out and about having fun rather than writing.

Alex F Chavez said...

It depends on the material, for Me. There's no way I am able to focus on the. Sci-Fi / Fantasy storytelling when My mood is sullen however My soul revealing poetic material flourishes under such circumstances.

Micky said...

YES!!!!!! I get some of my best work done when I'm angry and/or depressed. My emotions help create more realistic reactions for my characters. (Though it's true that I do find it difficult to write a happy scene when I'm angry. It just doesn't work somehow).

wry wryter said...

Writing when you are sad and about the 'sad' is sort of like praying, like handing it over to someone else, God, your weird next door neighbor or your smelly dog.

My dog can't read so I have to read it to him, he can sense my mood.. he puts his head in my lap...and he looks up at me with his huge brown eyes as if to say the writing is amazing and all will eventually be okay with the world...and then he farts.

Whew... his farts will shake the sad right out of ya, they are deadly.

I wonder, did Hemingway write about dog farts, I know he wrote about bull fights a lot, at least I think he did, and where there's bulls there must BS, therefore bull farts?
As you can tell I have no angst in my life right now, just a lot of bulls---.

kimberlyloomis said...

Well, shucks, if I wrote about corn dogs and space monkeys (assuming neither of these took a turn for the dark side) then I wouldn't write when angsty either! Truth be told I use whatever mood I'm in to write effectively in whatever sequence I need to. Good mood and I have to write torture? No problem! I just have to envision the pov character's perception of it in order to write it. If I do it well then my good mood holds! If not, well, that kind of grumpy will have my hiding from my keyboard and giving the monitor dirty looks. Definitely not productive.

R Elland said...

Hmn. For me the angst I feel does help me write. But I focus my emotions to what I need written in the books I write. Happy me is a happy character. Emo me is an emo character. Some things develop better that way, other times, I need to break away until I get back to the "right" emotions.

I will say this. Recent personal issues pushed me to write more, so in some ways, yes angst helped the story develop. But I don't think I'd want that regularly.

Jeff S Fischer said...

Another bubble bursting sharp question by our ever diligent ever thought loving and by most accounts human all human host Nathan Bransford. I think it comes down to why we write. I, personally, have a girlfriend that threatens me with a kitchen knife if I don't shut the hell up and write for the day. She loves me. So, it seems to come back to the question of why we write. Why do people write? It seems it is because writers are people who have thoughts that run 24/7 and there is no way that people will listen to us without killing us. It is the strange and lovely ability to contemplate everything human, and then some, coupled with the overwhelming need to express it. What else do we have? So, darkness and angst are part of being human. It's sort of like, like, dude, that linguists theory that everything is defined by what it is not. My best thoughts come about through anger, but since I'm a person that wants what is good I struggle my way out of my angst and come up with a life affirming thought. My grandfather would call that fighting your way out of a wet paper bag, but I call it being a person. Man, this can't be answered in a short declaration. As always, so far, great blog, Nathan.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Mira! You just got "Ulysses"!

I've in the recent past read some of the bios of a number of movie stars, musicians, etc.

A disproportionate number come from extremely trying circumstances.

I am not giving you a hard time, Mira. I think, as someone else said, you hit the nail right on the head.

Writing--all art, which ultimately is a form of (hopefully) communication, to me, at least--is a form of expression, making it a form of release.

People are told when they have trouble sleeping to write a list of the things that they're worrying about, presumably to have it out of their minds until the next morning.

Back when I was much younger, and one of the un-named poseurs of the time, the general belief was that to be a great writer, or artist of any real worth, you had to either have a dominant mother, an abusive father, or at the very least a dysfunctional family. Not to mention a good, "searing" physical or at least emotional wound.

Now. I would argue that non-posing artists have a soul like a sponge--they absorb life that most people are just as comfortable not seeing, not knowing about, or perhaps not even contemplating. But the artist's soul has a use for what it absorbs, what it thirsts for--experiences.

Experiences and knowing something about how your life is composed by a series of such things, a reason why I'm convinced cloning may create a physical or physiological replica, but will never, and can never, reproduce a personality.

Hemingway's life, for instance, wasn't all that tragic. He was an upper-middle-class kid from a large home with a doctor father and a somewhat over-the-possibility one-time opera singer. He went to the tail-end of The War to End all Wars, and got wounded handing out chocolate and cigarettes as part of a canteen set up by The American Red Cross, probably in an area he wasn't supposed to be, a few months after arriving in Italy.

But that's not the sum total of his life. In fact, it's not event the sum total of his war experience, even the first one. Because after being wounded by shrapnel from an exploding shell in a trench that had become a crater, he picked up a wounded soldier, put the guy over his back in what's now called a "fireman's carry," and struggled--while wounded--to get the guy to a first aid station.

And that's not all. On his way, he got wounded again, by a machine gun trying to cut him down with the guy on his back. And he still made it to the aid station. With the soldier on his back.

His First World War experience was hardly characteristic of a "quitter."

And his "continue on" sentiment came through in his prose, loud and clear, regardless of the circumstances.

It was his end that was indeed tragic, old before his time, physically, from experiences that came after his 18th birthday.

And, one could argue, mentally as well.

When I was younger and something I thought especially angst-y had happened to me, I'd hole up in the large walk-in closet in the bedroom that first was my parents' bedroom until they built an extension to their house and it became my bedroom, and write.

And I'd tell my parents if my friends called, "tell them I've got a novel to write."

And my friends would know something had bothered me.

The last major angst-y thing that happened to me, in 2002, got me back writing again. Not because I was posing, but because I realized I'd stopped expressing things I'd been bottling up somewhere along the road and needed to find my way again.

The minute I put pen to paper, and thought to fingers to pen to paper, it was like when I sat upon a motorcycle for the first time in nearly 20 years, fired it up and put it in gear and let the clutch out slowly...

Pumice is a fantastic metaphor, by the way, Mira. You may argue otherwise, but the way you expressed your thoughts in this last post...look out, Franzen...:)

Anonymous said...

“Does angst help you write?”

Angst does not help me write. However, it helps my writing because without evil, how can we know good? Perspective of both extremes lends towards the creative muse, but rarely can I write while indulging in either extreme.

While down and depressed, stressed, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, writing does not work well except for recording some notes for later use. While laughing and feeling high on life, writing feels like work. When the storms are over and skies begin clearing, writing is powerful. I call this the “gray zone” or twilight when the sun is at an angle to the earth making it neither day nor night.

Jan Priddy, Oregon said...

No.

Jim Jordan said...

Angst can be a good motivator. My novel was about a plane crash. Once I'd finished it, I overcame my fear of flying. Writing can be therapy.

Melanie said...

Some of the best books were written in the wake of divorces and deaths. Illusions of ultimate happiness are shattered, and we're reminded of our mortality during the most depressing experiences in our lives, so it only makes sense to me that that leads to some profound writing. Not everyone can turn angst into a thought-provoking, authentic story, of course. And I tend to think this fits best with literary fiction. Angst keeps me writing.

Other Lisa said...

p.s. What Mira said. Except she said it better.

Jeff S Fischer said...

Embrace the dragon. And burn, baby, burn.

Celsie said...

I think there's something to be said for being so emotion ridden that writing is how you choose to relieve the pressure. I hear about lots of authors who write like this.

That passed for me with my teens. I do still look back on it sometimes, but the emotional turmoil I require to write like that isn't worth it. I'll stick to daily writing sessions instead.

Marjorie said...

My best work comes from places of great emotion. I do stand-up comedy in NYC, and I am funniest on stage when I am coming from some place of strong feelings about some issue I am ranting about or something that happened during the days right before a show.

I write best when my feelings are right there beneath the surface. If it's angst, I own it. I write poetry, so If I am feeling down I am able to produce my best work.

My poems appear at:
http://marjorie-pentimentos.blogspot.com

Terri said...

Oh, yeah! Angst is a motivator and a vehicle for powerful writing. My angsty moods bring forth my best dark comedy material. Of course I'm making fun of serious stuff like death and murder and, well, I guess that's why they call it dark comedy.

Tessa Quin said...

Dear Nathan,

Completely unrelated to your great blog. Or maybe not entirely:

I really enjoy reading your blog. You probably put in at least an hour for each. You probably get these all the time, but I decided to award you the Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog awards. I don't have a query waiting in your mailbox - nor will there be on my current project, so this isn't a suck-up thing. I just figured, you know, agents are people, too ;)

Tura Lura said...

For me, angst = writing poetry.

That's the only time I write poetry.

<3,
TL

Claire Dawn said...

I'm bipolar. I have the energy to write when I'm up, and I get tons of material to write when I'm down.

I've always wondered if all writers weren't just a little bit crazy...

Mariam Maarouf said...

Yes, very much.
When I was writing my novel, the best of my descriptive emotional scenes were written when I was either really down or really tired (like, eye-drooping, stupid spelling mistakes and not-knowing-if-I-should-click-save-or-cancel kind of tired). I re-read and edited later, of course - but it was only then when I could really do my best with my writing, and my plot twists. Weird, right? Hmm.. What matters now is that my novel, Rosie, will be published and released by early 2011.

Annikka Woods said...

Does angst help me write? Without writing I'd probably be locked up in a mental ward somewhere. I can't NOT write when I'm stressed, upset, depressed, angry, etc. I also love to write when I'm happy, cheerful, excited, etc. Without the emotions I feel, my characters wouldn't be able to feel them. Scenes that require certain moods I tend to write when my own mood matches because then, upon revision, it seems so much more real.

Kathryn Magendie said...

There's an old saying that I don't know if it's true, but it's said Hemingway quipped: "Write drunk; revise sober" -- so I'd say "write pissed/depressed/woe-is-me, but revise when you're over yourself..." :-D

I can always tell a "rant" when I'm reading (my stuff or anyone elses) and it's not purty - so get the 'rant' out and then go in and delete the hell out of it.

slavandria said...

I tend to write more when I'm angsty. Writing gets me out of my funk. I also seem to write the best character conflicts and resolutions during these 'moments'. It's cathartic. Of course, after writing a bit, I'm no longer angsty and then I just write, and write, and write.

Carol said...

Well, for me, it sort of gives me permission to write the things I am normally "afraid" to write.

Kristi said...

Angst doesn't help me do the writing, but it definitely fuels the emotions behind the words.

And writing helps the angst. Gives me a place to put it, a way to revel in it without damaging my real life.

I think my brain likes to have multiple things going on at once. It can be slow-smoking one idea while its hot-searing another. In day-to-day life, the fiction is the slow smoker, and pull it out all tender and flavorful when I have time to type. And it reverses when I'm at the keyboard, which gives me time to digest the real-life issues and not just react to it blindly.

And now, I'm totally craving a steak and some ribs.

bfav said...

I think some of the very best writers are literally crazy. Which means there is no hope for me. I have my own crazy but too much normal dillutes it.

Teralyn Pilgrim said...

Angst is important in writing, but not in the way you're describing. If I'm feeling bad WHILE I'm writing, I'll only write trash, but if I feel bad BEFORE I start writing, then I have an experience worth writing about.

I think having a difficult life (aka being a "tortured artist") makes writing more interesting, as long as your happy enough long enough to actually get some writing done.

Teralyn Pilgrim said...

Angst is important in writing, but not in the way you're describing. If I'm feeling bad WHILE I'm writing, I'll only write trash, but if I feel bad BEFORE I start writing, then I have an experience worth writing about.

I think having a difficult life (aka being a "tortured artist") makes writing more interesting, as long as your happy enough long enough to actually get some writing done.

GhostFolk.com said...

It angst was what it takes to be a writer, wouldn't everyone in prison have a novel published by now?

Mira said...

Oh - people talked to me. I shall talk back. :)

Anon 5:24 - thank you. It's good to find someone else who understands. :)

Terin - Ha! So, I'm done? I don't have to read Ulysses now? ;)

Other Lisa - thank you, and I thought your comment about the loss of ego was really insightful and rang true. I also just bought your book - looking forward to it. :)

Marilyn - HUGS BACK!! You are so supportive of me here. It means alot to me - more than you probably know. Thank you!! :)

Nicole said...

No. If I'm angsty, it probably means I'm stresssed, and I can't focus when I'm stressed. I like to feel good and excited when I write - usually I'm feeling good and excited because I'm writing.

Now, if I'm writing angst for characters, that's a little different....but I'm still probably having a blast. ;D

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Mira: yes!
At least, somehow you seem to have absorbed it without having to try to read it...:)

Though, just a thought, you might try reading it with your blog post in mind...

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

ROTFLMAO! Angst fuels the fire - doesn't help me actually sit down in front of the computer though!

Steve Ulfelder said...

In the third book of my Knittin' Kittens (tm) trilogy, I find myself going to some dark places. A lot of heavy stuff is surfacing, especially for Socks.

Tammy said...

Without angst, my work tends to run along the lines of unicorns and rainbows. With angst, it changes to were-unicorns (werewolves with horns) and rainbows of death.

In all seriousness, I write better with angst, the prose is dark and lyrical and my characters tend to find themselves in nearly impossible situations. It's almost as if they have to suffer along with me.

Dara said...

Definitely NOT. If I'm depressed, I just want to sit and do nothing.

Jens Porup said...

Art occurs in times of surplus, we were taught in grade school. Only when we have enough to eat and a roof over our heads do we have time to create art.

This mistakes the true nature of art. Art is not an elective operation. Suffering produces great art. In times of surplus and prosperity, there is no need to speak out, no angst to express.

What is the foundation of American music? The blues. Who created the blues? Was is complacent New England burghers in their snug abodes? Was it the wealthy landowners of the South in their sultry mansions? Or was it the slaves, and then the sharecroppers, singing spirituals in the fields, grieving to a white god their black anguish?

Look at modern Russia. Who are the great modern Russian novelists? There are none. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn all lived in slave societies -- first serfdom under the tsars, followed by Communist oppression.

Look at modern Australia, a happy country with a good social welfare net and low levels of income inequality. Name one great Australian storyteller. Australian movie at the box office? Run as fast as you can -- in the other direction.

It's no wonder, then, that America, a nation of slaves (yes, if you have to go to work to pay off debt, you are still a slave), continues to produce greater works of literature than many other countries.

You ask, does angst help you write. Angst in the only reason to write. Anything else is a diddly intellectual exercise that lacks soul.

Horserider said...

I'm with you, angst usually kills the creativity with me. I've also noticed that if I do write, my books tend to reflect my mood. And that's not usually a good idea.

Mimi Cross said...

Depression's Upside

I'm a bit late, but people might appreciate this fantastic article from the NY Times last winter:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?pagewanted=all

I agree with article and wonder if anyone else does.

Then of course there's unrequited love, the best fuel for a fire. So perhaps it's the type of angst . . .

drea moore said...

I cannot write when angsty or depressed. If I try, I end up composing bad poetry which winds up in the recycle bin when I pull out of my funk. If I write stories in that space, I'm so self-critical I can press "delete" too often and convince myself to tank a lot of hard work that really just needs
... more work ...

I do find, however, that my writing benefits when I finally kick the negativity. Something about questioning myself when I'm down makes me more...directed when I'm over it.

Anonymous said...

Sad songs on a radio way across the room is a definite YES. My writing becomes more fluid.

Edward Anthony said...

Angst always causes me to write a darker part of myself in the characters. Sometimes it is helpful. Sometimes the story gets too dark. I try to find a balance, but I usually have to step away from the computer for a few days.

Pen and Ink said...

Fear/Depression leaves me totally debilitated and I cannot write. It affected me for years this way. For me it was the worst (and only) type of writer's block. Another writer I know over at the Pen and Ink blog (thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com)gets more prolific, the more depression sets in! Normally, I would say this is a blessing, but once I read Lupe's description of his depression, I thought this is something you don't want in your Christmas stocking.

Sunday Kofffon said...

I would have to say anger is my driving force in all things! A fact and an awareness that creates my life’s most enduring dilemma; I don’t want to walk around with out a chip on my shoulder rest of my life. I fear, without the anger I carry along with that chip would be rendered unable to get my butt out of bed on any given morning.

Related Posts with Thumbnails