Saturday, August 23, 2014
Does Hardship Improve Your Writing?
By Mark Alpert
We just got back from a vacation in northern Michigan. We had a great time, but now I’m way behind on my novel. I need to get busy.
I’m too tired to write a long post tonight, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this question: Does hardship make you a better writer? A lot of people think so, but I’m skeptical. A little hardship might be a good thing -- it can fill you with grit and determination and perhaps even some righteous zeal. I’m thinking now of Dickens, whose miserable childhood spurred him to write some remarkable novels. But constant misery isn’t good for anyone.
I can think of many desperately unhappy people who produced works of genius -- David Foster Wallace, Kurt Cobain, etc. -- but it’s easy to confuse correlation with causation. Did Cobain write great music because he was unhappy, or was he a musical genius who also happened to have problems with addiction and depression? When Cobain killed himself in 1994, many people assumed that the pressures of becoming a rock star had contributed to his suicide, but I think music helped him far more than it hurt him. Without it, he would’ve killed himself even sooner.
Wow, this is morbid. I’m going to end this post on a more cheerful note: I’ve discovered a wonderful new thing to eat. It’s the spicy lamb noodle soup from Xi’an Famous Foods on Broadway and 102nd Street. Truly delicious and only eight dollars! The next time you’re in New York you’ve got to try it.