Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A thin line between art and pain

Every writer’s personal life influences their art; some of the greatest writers were tortured, damaged souls who turned their pain into masterpieces of literature. But while the common perception is that one’s private turmoil inevitably leads to beautiful art, I think there are times when it can impede creativity – leaving one stifled and frustrated.
I tread a fine balance between allowing my experiences to illuminate my work and letting them destroy it. Some days I am more successful than others. For me, my art has always been a relief valve; there’s nothing more liberating that writing page after page of angry rants in my diary. But now that I’m beginning to write for public consumption, I have to temper my art with craft. Creative writing requires discipline and focus – and that requires space.

Some might disagree, but I believe every writer needs a creative space where one can do one’s best work. It can be a quiet place in a library, or a dark corner of a coffee shop. The American short story writer, O. Henry, had a bar across the street from his hotel where he would work.

Unfortunately, what a turbulent personal life can do is rob one of creative space. The space does not need to be a physical location, either. Not having a desk in my room is difficult, but what is harder is wresting the freedom to think my own thoughts, free of intrusion and manipulation.

It has been a struggle to discipline myself and allow myself the luxury of space. I find it hard to give myself permission to spend time doing something that is difficult, but which I love. I struggle with feelings of guilt (that I’m wasting my time on something frivolous), inadequacy (that I’m no good at this, so why bother?) and a nameless, rootless fear that I will never live up to the expectations of my friends and mentors, which leads to constant procrastination.

I have come to realize that many of these demons have roots in childhood experiences and the incredibly complex family dynamics that have made me who I am today. Moving back with my parents has forced me to try and do creative work in the midst of generational, cultural and personal conflicts –making an already complicated situation even more complex.

But the alternative – to not be able to write at all – is far, far worse.