Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is suffering an important part of writing?

I don't usually get too philosophical about writing, but I thought you guys might find this interesting. Last night Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert appeared on The Colbert Report, and talked with Stephen about whether artists need to suffer in order to create worthwhile art.

Stephen also brought up Elizabeth's TED Talk about creativity:

Along the lines of failure and suffering, be sure to check out INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, a heartbreaking and authentic look at a creative life. Llewyn is a musician, but I think you'll find a lot of parallels between his experience and the experiences of a writer.

Do you think you need to suffer to write well? Has your best work come from good times or bad?



I don't think you HAVE to suffer to write well... but I think that since suffering is such a major part of the human experience, you have to have understood that on a visceral level in order to write in a fully human way. And usually that understanding comes best through suffering.

Craig said...

A few years ago I took a screenwriting seminar with Gordy Hoffman at the local film festival and we had a discussion about writing equaling suffering. He made the point that you feel what your characters feel if you're writing well, and if they're feeling less than desirable emotions you'll be put through the wringer, too.

In that sense I think writing is definitely suffering. It's hard staring at a blank page everyday. It's hard putting your characters through whatever trauma you can think of. And it's hard putting that work out into the world to be scorned.

That being said, the suffering one feels as a writer I think is more of a therapeutic suffering. It can often suffering to exorcise demons. Not to mention, of anything, it's suffering in pursuit of a greater good. To me, that's the best kind of suffering.

Chris Ming said...

Good writers, I don't think so much as suffer, as they do empathize. (You could argue that the greater your suffering, the greater your ability to empathize, but let's refrain from waxing poetic here :-) )

I think good writing notices all the nuances and subtleties and shades of all people and emotions around them. Suffering is included in that, but so is happiness and joy and lust and anger.

To say you "you need to suffer to write well" is a bit melodramatic.

Great Ted talk.