Are Writers Nuts?

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?

8 thoughts on “Are Writers Nuts?”

  1. I can’t read thrillers, they’re too upsetting and get my heart racing. Some have given me nightmares. So I quit reading them. I don’t know what it says about the authors.

  2. I do think that writers think differently and also actors. A good actor can make you feel that they have really experienced the part they are playing, a good writer can make you feel like you are a part of the story in a way. I think you have to be a level of nutty to be either.

    Yes, writers that write horror scare me. How screwed up must Stephen King be in real life. THAT dude has to be a lot nuts! If I were his wife I’d be scared as Hell.

  3. As a reader, I always assume that….apart from a vivid imagination, a writer also has to have something to draw from that only could come from experience. Karen, you are the embodiment of a perfect author, in my humble opinion, because you have the ability to weave all of that together in your active mind – your own personal “tapestry”. After reading your books, and your comments on this blog, it has helped me to understand authors and writers better. I picture you with a little spigot on your forehead, and those thoughts that have been collected by your inquisitive nature, your curiosity about everything around you, your memories from a life filled with different and exciting experiences, your gift of a creative brain and your ability to organize those thoughts into words – just pour out of that spigot and onto the pages. It’s a difficult thing for a person to be able to communicate those thoughts so adeptly, so as a reader, thank you for being an author that makes me feel a kinship with you.

    • That is just the loveliest comment, Toni. I’m printing it out and taping it to my monitor. No kidding.

      I’ve often pictured myself with a funnel at the top of my brain. EVERYTHING goes in there and then comes out. The spigot works as well as any other analogy and better than being connected to the computer like a member of the Borg.

      Your comment about kinship is especially poignant to me,Toni. I’ve often thought that the process of writing/reading is this grand connection we have to one another. Probably the purest form of connection there is.

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