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sadness and writing

March 16, 2010

if you ever need an album to help you digest and catalogue sadness, i suggest bare by annie lennox. it’s a phenomenally sad and heartwrenching and bittersweet album that she created following her divorce. i use it to help me write particularly intense scenes or bits.

which brings me to the idea of sadness and how it contributes to writing.

i can’t speak for other writers in my program, though i have taken note of people’s mood swings – but i can speak for myself, candidly, and from the barest part of my heart. i do get sad. it has been less and less frequent since i started practicing bikram yoga, and i’m thankful for that because i needed to be balanced out. but i do get sad – i get sad about many things, really. i get sad when i research HIV/AIDS (i tend to use a lot of pictures, such as benetton’s la pieta, because i find that i can write better when i keep a relevant and jarring visual in front of me). i get sad when i write love scenes or extreme interactions having to do with romantic love, because often i have no basis for what i am writing. i get sad when it is nighttime.

i guess my question is this: how does sadness relate to writing? i can’t figure out if it is hindering or helping me. if i write something, and i cry, i feel like it might be effective. but maybe i am over-sensitive. maybe i was having a bad day. maybe the sadness occurs because i’m not properly hashing my emotions out on the page, so maybe it is making my writing more wooden than good.

i feel like loneliness – and the sadness that goes along with that – can be a writerly trait. we tend to sometimes shut ourselves away for periods of time when we have been writing up a little tornado. i am just coming out of one of those stages. some of the writers in the program never leave those stages. some never enter into them. i have been cloistered away in my apartment, eschewing the library, bent over my computer. i wonder if loneliness tends to be an occupational hazard of being a writer.

i think it is important to feel the sadness all the way through – chew it, get the juice out, sluice it over your tongue and your heart and your brain – and to catalogue it and see what you can use from it. but this is such a dangerous thing, really, because it means that i’m sad a lot.


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