I was listening to the podcast of a well-known and popular author the other day. I respect him as an author and a public speaker. However, he managed to surprise me with a comment.
He said that all writers and actors are nuts.
The reason? Well, in order to dig deep in their portrayal of characters, actors often re-visit old traumas. Instead of allowing these traumas to heal they use them, constantly peeling off the scab, refreshing the sadness, pain, or angst involved in a particular trauma. Writers, too, feed off of their own experiences of pain in order to convey them with authenticity.
His point was that we shouldn’t listen to actors when they tell us how to vote or think about cultural topics because these people are not psychologically healthy. In that same vein, neither are writers.
You’re probably going to be surprised when I say that I partially agree with him.
Of all the literary genres, romance is probably the healthiest one for writers. I’ve often wondered about horror writers. What must being terrorized/being a terror do to the human psyche? You see, I believe that a writer has to feel what he writes. He has to experience it. Otherwise, what you have is a surface kind of writing that never truly reaches you. You don’t feel a connection.
I don’t read “literary fiction” because I don’t want to be depressed. It’s my feeling that the author probably has had a significant experience in her life and replays it in words.
Do I revisit certain pain points in my own life? Yes. I can’t help but do so when something comes too close. For example, a certain scene in To Love a Duchess tore me up. Not because it was identical to something I experienced, but because it resurrected certain feelings. Anyone who’s ever read Tapestry will know that I replayed a lot of personal angst in that book.
Does that mean that I consider myself psychologically unhealthy? Nope. I’m pretty centered with my head screwed on straight. I write romance so I get to experience lots and lots of joyous emotions. In other words, all the good things that can happen to people. I am, however, cognizant of the dangers of writing and of going to those dark places all the time. Writing is sometimes painful and that isn’t a confession you’ll hear a lot when you visit writing forums. Writing pulls emotions from the depths of you.
A couple of years ago I had the idea for this really fascinating, creepy story. I couldn’t finish it because it scared me to death. Yes, I can scare myself. Maybe I was giving voice to something within me that should have remained buried and undisturbed. (And maybe that’s why I wonder about horror writers.) 🙂
What’s your opinion? As a reader, have you ever read something that made you certain the author had experienced a version of it? As a writer, do you wonder about how “deep” you get into emotions?