Damaged goods?

I was reading an instructional book on writing and in the introduction it stated that all writers are damaged. Even the funniest or most romantic books are written by people with pain in their past.

Now it is not that I take offense, in many ways I agree with the premise, probably many (most/all) writers are carrying around a little bit of darkness from their childhood. What I found odd about the statement is that it makes it sound like writers have cornered the market, but I would argue everybody is a little damaged.

Not everyone was beaten as a child (or worse), not everyone suffered the loss of a parent/sibling/loved one, but then again not all writers have either. We all live by our own yardstick, so our own injustices and sorrows are significant to us, ergo they are all damaging. I think you don’t realise how well off you have things until they get worse, only then does your measure of pain gets recalibrated.

I think writing might be a coping mechanism for many (most/all) writers, but just one of many, and for many they wouldn’t even realise it is serving this function. Other people might choose therapy, focused achievement, denial, drugs or controlling behaviours. Writers can choose these things too.

I don’t think it is the damage that turns us into writers; I think writers are the kinds of people for whom writing helps us get past our damage.

2 thoughts on “Damaged goods?”

  1. I agree with you. Writers, like all artists, are allowed the scope to express their emotions in their work. While it’s true that other professions are indicative of difficult experiences (the over-compensating high flyer or the “crazy” mental health professional, to take two cliches), most of us wouldn’t find it easy or appropriate to deal with our problems at work and, in some cases, you’d be expected to remove yourself from instances which too closely mirrored your own past. In other circumstances, the ability to detach from our experiences and not let these colour our work is a necessity. All of these strategies can, of course, help overcome, or at least deal with, traumas, along with the other behaviours you mentioned.

    Perhaps artists are those with the desire or courage to express their damage publicly?

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