Brain Fog

18 May

Getting about five hours of very broken sleep does not make me a happy “mudder.” It doesn’t really make me a happy writer either, mostly because of the fog that seems to settle in my brain. But even without the fog, can I be a happy writer?

Some people argue that there are no happy writers. I like what Jamaica Kincaid says in this article about the happy writer. She says:

I don’t know that there are any happy writers. But I don’t know that there is any happy person either. A happy person, to me, would seem to have the unique ability to shut out unpleasantness of life. I think happiness is something you run into from time to time…Happiness is not a natural state. If it were a natural state, there would be no word for it. You’d just sort of bump into it in the dark.

Those who know the challenges of “the greats” would have to agree:

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer – and if so, why?

Bennett Cerf, Co-founder of Random House

But I’d like to argue that each writer has his or her own set of challenges to face and overcoming those challenges is what makes, if not a happy writer, at least a satisfied writer. And the same idea can be applied to other passions. Anything worth doing is going to require some amount of sacrifice or effort or discomfort or unhappiness. But I think there is also the potential for great reward. So I think there is such a thing as a happy writer.

Mary and Ellen seem to agree. Mary says that “breaking out my buffet of grammarian’s parlor tricks makes me insanely happy. Thanks to Sister Norbert (may she rest in peace) I can recite the various forms of the infinitive verb “to be” and can sing a song of prepositional phrases.  I can parse a sentence in my head.  I know the difference between a semi-colon and a colon.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!”

And Ellen is encouraged by her readers and, “Also having the time to write and when I feel I have constructed a particularly witty play on words.”

Here are some of the things that make me a happy writer:

finishing a first draft

finding ways to revise to make a story more cohesive

getting to know a character and let him or her tell the story

finding an idea and writing it in my journal

having the courage to cut a passage I was particularly proud of for the good of the story

imagining the illustrations for a picture book as I write

Overall, the things that make me a happy writer are similar to what makes me a happy person in the other areas of my life. Competed tasks. Growth. Little things. And all of those things are my responsibility. They aren’t based on external validation, although sometimes that’s nice too, or the actions of others. It is just me making my own happiness, in the case of writing, one word at a time.

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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Why Write?


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