Writing is Misery


The last poem of the second voting section has been added to my interactive poetry series on Wattpad. Remember to vote, share, or comment for your chance to be mentioned on my YouTube channel, Coffee and Cats. The poem is titled – To the Anti-American Teacher…We Knew You Were Pro-World – and here are the opening lines:

A clause in your contract slated your signature for patriotism.

You never signed, they never checked, but you took down your flag

after that.

Writing is Misery

Warning: I will curse in the first three sentences of this post. Not including these two or the next one. You have been warned.

Recently, I spoke with a writer I deeply respect, and one of things I said was something along the lines of “I am enjoying every minute of my writing.” To which he replied, “If you’re enjoying every minute, you’re not a writer.”

This has been one of those bitch-slapping moments of my half-assed career. I say half-assed with deep respect. I don’t mean it as a bad thing. Truly. I mean it as a reflection of how the general public sees my writing career, and I promise, there is no ill-will toward anyone who sees it that way.

Even though I don’t agree with the general public, I get it. I do. Oh, trust me. I really do. I am a writer, a lover of words, and although every part of me is tempted to agree with this author (who I respect so much I will take this moment to remind everyone how much I respect him) I – alas – cannot agree, even though I have contemplated the words for weeks. However, I will say this. He is right about one thing. I am miserable. But he is wrong about one, pesky detail. I love my misery.

You see, to me, there is no greater delight than exploring the deepest, darkest corners of life through writing, and when I explore, I often find myself in the hollowed out pit of a character’s soul – one that has been etched out through tragedy and despair and loneliness. So much loneliness. And it is in those struggled souls that I find my love for them, my appreciation for their fight, my determination to set their story free – and I write it out.

"I am going to help you write a new book." (Please. Oh, please, readers. Get this joke.)
“I am going to help you write a new book.” (Please. Oh, please, readers. Get this joke.)

This is the moment I lose myself, where my identity no longer matters, where I become another person. This is when my character takes over my existence, and perhaps, because of this takeover, I find myself saying that I am not miserable at all, because I cannot feel misery if I do not exist. Only my characters can.

Because of this peculiar way my brain works, only my character explores this thing called misery. In The Timely Death Trilogy, Eric has to face his fate, his ex-girlfriend’s murder, and his mother’s suicide – not to mention all of the other drama that happens in just the first book alone – but Jessica has to find herself in a world that didn’t allow her to have an identity, and that is really, really difficult for her. In Take Me Tomorrow – oh, Take Me Tomorrow – Sophia has to face the truth about all of her loved ones, but she also has to learn the truth about herself, and I can relate way too well to this instance because I, too, have to learn the truth about myself, and I do that through – you guessed it – writing as my characters.

It is in my characters’ misery that I find my own fight.

Sophia reminds me of how I had to see the truth about my own mother and the addiction that killed her. Jessica showed me how I can find myself no matter how many times I move or lose someone, even if it takes a very long time. Eric proved that tragedy is not an excuse, but that it can still hurt a lot and often and that is okay. And all of my other characters add to those lessons every day, and for that reason alone, I could never be alone.

I never could be miserable.

Yes, life is hard. Following a dream is even harder. But – I believe – even if I fail, I have already succeeded. I have found what I love, and there is no failure in that. Misery does not exist in the hollow depths of passion, because passion is not hollow. It is full of excitement, and love, and perseverance, and cheesy paragraphs just like this one that simply exist in hopes of encouraging someone else to continue on with their miserable head held high…showing off a big grin to prove it.


30 thoughts on “Writing is Misery

  1. Come to think of it,everything you have stated is right. So many times actors say they get to live a whole new life through their characters.Writers also do the same and even more because to be able access the intimate thoughts of the characters and present them in stories, you need to become them.This probably brings me to the conclusion that writing is misery,joy,infatuation,passion or any other emotion that connects writers to their characters.
    I love how your posts make me think deeply about things Sharon.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I like how you compared writers to actors because I find the comparison very honest for many artists. Art, in itself, is expression, and expression generally holds some type of emotion. Even the lack of emotion could arguably be an emotion, and I think that’s what I was trying to explain with my characters being the ones who are feeling the misery or pain and how I find myself within those moments.

  2. Amazing post. I agree 100%.
    One person’s experience does not cover the rest of the world. I love writing, even when it draws out emotions I didn’t even think I could feel. There’s such magic between you and your characters. It’s a pain you love and even look forward to. Great job. 🙂

  3. I’m only miserable when editing because my brain keeps trying to sneak away to the next book of the series. I tend to create relatively upbeat stories, which are fun and misery rarely shows up in the mix. So maybe it just revolves around what the author is working on. I will say that when I do write a heavy scene, I can feel the misery and I have to take a break to clear my head. This is especially true with the monster villain or the character walking around with a broken heart since her debut. So I think the ‘miserable author’ myth stems a lot from what they’re putting into the story at the time.

    It is strange how there’s a public idea that authors have demons that torture them during every hour of their existence. Some authors even indulge in that idea and play it up for some reason. All I know is that I’m not really miserable until people assume I am and try to have an intervention. Wonder what it says about an author if they’re miserable with or without their writing? At least while writing they have an outlet.

    1. That is a difficult part of writing a series! Keeping certain secrets back and such. I struggled with that in Take Me Tomorrow since I wasn’t sure whether or not the sequel would even release. I think a lot of the “miserable author” myth comes from the amount of authors we study in school who have either committed suicide or died from addiction or were simply known as tortured souls. (Think Poe and Hemmingway). But that’s just my theory. I do agree with that though! I am not as happy if I’m not writing. I need writing. Even if it’s not about me, I think writing stories out is my brain’s way of figuring my own life out, whether I will ever realize the connections or not, and I’m perfectly happy with it. I almost think it’s like actors (someone brought this up above.) The public talks about how strange it must be to be married to actors who have to be intimate on screen with a different actor, so many people are uncomfortable and could never date an actor – which might be why they are always together, because they understand each other. Maybe writers are the same in the sense that when I say “My character takes over me.” a non-writer thinks I have multiple personality disorder when a fellow writers nods and tells me about their time their character made them write something they never expected to write.

      1. I was thinking of Poe and Hemingway too. Also Plath gets brought up a lot. I think people inherently like the idea of a ‘tragic artist’ because it’s been romanticized somehow. Almost like there’s some beauty in the tortured soul and self-destruction.

        That makes perfect sense with actors and writers. I always find that it’s hard to explain things to non-authors. Friends and family may try to figure it out, but I can tell that they’re just lost. Almost like an author speaks another language and this creates an air of isolation.

  4. I process my emotions, life lessons, and such through my characters. If it weren’t for their trials and tribulations I doubt I’d be where I am in terms of my self-esteem and such. I try to explain to people how that works but I don’t think they get it. Mostly because they subscribe to the “writer is god, the characters are mere pawns on a chess board” type thinking whereas for me, my characters are beings with their own agendas, I’m just the conduit they use to tell their stories through.

    Great post; it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who writes this way. 🙂

    1. I completely understand that frustration! I will even talk to beta readers who suggest something, and I will say, “That would be neat, but Character A just won’t do that scene.” And they won’t get that I’m not choosing to go against their suggestion. The character is. I like your “writer is god, characters are pawns” explanation for how many non-writers think writing can be like. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. Great post! I’m with you and don’t think writing is misery. It’s freeing and challenging at the same time. I find it cathartic a lot of the time and wouldn’t want it any other way.

  6. What a jerk! And you admire this writer who slapped you down. Why, again? I run into so many seasoned writers who feel they have some duty to slap young writers down and explain how this career sucks. It’s way too close to bullying. They tick me off!

    The great thing about writing and other arts is that there isn’t a wrong way to do it. It’s your experience and your story. Your approach may not be the most commercial, but that doesn’t make it “wrong.”

    Writing SHOULD be fun. Don’t let anybody try to take that from you.

    1. I guess I didn’t see it as bullying. Sure, I was thrown off by the comment, but the more I thought about it, the more I think he was just trying to evoke a thought about our conversation in general. Maybe he was trying to tear me down, but I just don’t think he was. But I do agree about how there are many writers who try to tear fellow writers down. Why? I have no idea, but I completely agree with what you said. Writing should be fun!

  7. I’m only miserable when I’m NOT writing. When I am writing I’m happy to be there throwing words on paper even if it’s rubbish. And hey, I like editing and rewriting so it’s all good. The misery only comes with procrastination, self doubt, and other non-writing things that can bring a person down. Great post, I’m glad you addressed this topic because so many people focus on the wrong part of being an artist.

  8. I’m reminded of a scene in “The Hours” where Nicole Kidman a.k.a. Virginia Wolfe comes down the stairs with a cigarette looking very troubled. She simply says: “I have a first line.” Which of course announces a terrible, miserable journey for she and her family…

    Writing is a misery I love. I could never be happy without it.

  9. Thank you for this post. “I have found what I love, and there is no failure in that. Misery does not exist in the hollow depths of passion, because passion is not hollow. ” Love that…
    I struggle with this idea that an artist has to be miserable. Because, honestly, when I am really dedicating my time and energy to my craft is when I am NOT miserable. It is when my depression is easiest to control and I have the most positive outlook on life — because I am living into that thing I am passionate about. Because the challenges that come with it mean that I am actually DOING what I want to be doing. It’s joyful.

  10. I know what you mean. The first books I’ve worked on take place in a world where dark secrets create profound sadness. They’re difficult to write, but they’re worth writing, even if they’re nowhere near the Happily Ever After used so often.

  11. “I have found what I love and there is no failure in that.”

    That summarized it perfectly for me. Writing is more than a career, or a hobby, or even a passion. It is both a lens through which to safely view the world and a way to address who we truly are. Writing saved my life, by allowing me to address things I don’t. The subject of a mother and addiction hit home with me, especially.

    Thanks for the article, instantly shared and liked.

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