Tag Archives: pain

Does Embracing Pain Enhance Your Witing?

There are several archetypical ‘artist’ types, including but not limited to the free-spirited nature-lover, the lush, and everyone’s favorite, the tortured artist. Let’s talk about that last one.

A lot of good writing has come from people in pain, but that doesn’t mean you have to live an horrific life to be a great artist. I wouldn’t recommend a headlong leap into a pit of acid-spitting spike-beasts (they’re expensive to breed and store), and I wouldn’t recommend developing an alcohol problem (as many writers have). However, if you do find yourself in a position to choose between pain and serenity, I’d like to argue against serenity.

Serenity gets a good wrap. Peace, balance, and tranquility are all parts of what many religions call Goodness. It’s the end of the line, the apex, the ultimate goal. Serenity is the receipt you get after spending time and effort getting there.  Peace is ‘good,’ but it is boring.

Peace yields no stories. Stories are in the struggle.

One of my biggest challenges when I started writing was portraying gritty, ugly things.  My characters were paragons of virtue.  I want them to be beautiful, intelligent, respectable, and always right.  My main character, as she is now, is graceful and formal.  When I look at earlier drafts, she was a snarling, bone-crunching feral monster.  She changed as I changed, and the writing reflects that change of perspective.  In my heart, I know she’s something in between.  Peace, serenity and balance deny drama.  If I let her stay graceful and formal, she’ll be boring. How would a graceful person respond to being tipped off balance during an important meeting? How would a formal person respond to being surrounded by people of a different class and no interest in wealth? In short, what would she do outside of her comfort zone?

The question we’re really asking here is how does she struggle, and how does she grow. That struggle is what makes someone real. The more real and resonant they are, the more they have to put up with the nonsense we face every day, the more their story will matter to complete strangers.

It’s important for you, as a writer, to take risks.  Summon your courage.  Be willing to risk getting angry or humiliated.  Be willing to let your characters make mistakes and suffer.  Let your heroes be cruel.  Let your villains be admirable.  All experience, from stillness to chaos, will be useful to you.  Embrace the horrific.  Use it well.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

— Kenji Miyazawa

“The lesson of pain is why we stayed, why we adapted, why we’ve endured so long.  Without it, no living thing, aware of itself, can be called whole.
— Timmain, “In All But Blood” Wendy & Richard Pini.

 

spasm

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The best evil is close to home

I’ve seen several memes floating about regarding character death.  All of them begin with a picture of J.K. Rowling saying “It’s hard killing off so many characters.”  On the lower half was a photo of another writer and their response.

George R.R. Martin:  “You’re adorable.”
Joss Whedon: “You’re new here, aren’t you.”
Stephen King:  “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my characters’ screaming.”

This is a joke (as most internet memes are) and the responses are of course fictitious.  What I’m driving at here is that stories are driven by conflict.  Great achievement must come at great sacrifice — such as a dead protagonist.  Sacrifice comes through conflict, and conflict cannot exist without evil. 

Evil doesn’t always result in death. The worst evil is slow and subtle, and destroys your soul long before your body.

I advise every writer who reads this to dig inside themselves and find a shard of evil.  I don’t mean maniacal overlord evil, I mean preacher evil.  I mean schoolyard bully evil.  I mean passive-aggressive-boss evil.  Something that not only exists and walks in this world; but something that knows, deep down, the pain it inflicts is just and fair.

Writing and reading is a form of escape.  We live vicariously through the people and worlds we create.  It’s important every now and then to open the trap door, walk down into the basement, and say hello to the creature you’ve kept locked in the psychic cage.  Some of them are abstract — from children, to purring liars, to twitching monstrosities that drool acid and hiss obscene desires directly into your brain.  Imagine the same spirit in a housewife.  In a friend.  In a colleague.  They all believe they’re right.  Let them show you why.

Maybe the hero will believe them, and then make the wrong choice.

Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
– H.L. Mencken

Hell is paved with good Samaritans.”
– William M. Holden

These Are The People I Want In My Life

I found this beautiful poem through a friendship with a musician with a beautiful soul. I would not have met her if I didn’t know writers with beautiful souls. Beautiful souls are true, and shine bright, whether they glow with compassion or writhe in their own torment. For me, beauty lies solely in entelechy.

The Invitation
by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can  disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.