“You do teeter on the edge all the time,” says Hilary Mantel, the morning after she became the first woman and the first Briton to win the Booker prize twice.
“It’s the place of obsession – a dangerous obsession.” Mantel is
talking about the risks to a writer’s mental health of indulging in
historical fiction, of ventriloquising the dead. ~ Guardian Books
A twice Booker-prize winner calls writing a dangerous obsession, and Swedish researchers claim that Creativity is ‘closely entwined with mental illness‘:
Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders,
schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish
researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.
They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.
Anais Nin considered Emotional Excess Essential to Writing and Creativity: (bold emphasis below mine)
You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and
feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you
have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be
afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries
you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to
flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions
and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was
born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions,
instabilities, and it always balances them.
I mostly find that (genre) folks like Ray Bradbury who ‘enjoy’ their writing are far happier than (literary) folks like Albert Camus who are tortured by it.
While this gives me pause for thought (and discussion with writing friends), and makes me wonder whether my friends who ‘fondly’ call me crazy might be on to something, it also gives me hope, and a way to utilize all of my experiences into my writing.
So do you think a writer must be on the edge, emotionally, to produce worthy art, or all of that is bollocks, and we should all just get on with ‘enjoying’ our writing?