Literary Warmth

PICTURE JacobWriters have a reputation for being cold. The writer spends his days at a desk working the same words into different orders, avoiding other people so he can concentrate, obsessing over titles, obsessing over the few experiences he has with the outside world, obsessing obsessing obsessing. The nights are the same, but darker, mixed with images of the tortured soul. Addiction, insomnia, and night terrors are common. The writer is alone, is misanthropic, is sarcastic and mean, is cold. The stereotype is half the story; the warmer side of the literary life is rarely thought of.

The misconceptions of writing are clear to anyone who lives a creative life. No writer gets by spending all his time alone with words. The world itself is necessary for details in poems, characters in stories, and the plot itself in creative nonfiction. Not every writer is tortured. Conflicted over his emotions? Of course. Obsessive? At times. Insomnaic? Well, if you’re working on a piece and sleep gets in the way…. But, overall, the writer must not be an emotional/psychological wreck. Not every decision needs obsession, not every poem means sleepless nights, and not every writer is an alcoholic. Even those who were made it a rule not to write while drunk—the process itself was plain and untortured.

Which leaves the warmth of writing. The moments when the writer realizes the music of a phrase or sentence, the times when characters come alive, the times when a plot twist seems to suggest itself. And the warmth isn’t just related to craft—it comes from those moments when he reads another writer that confirms a belief he’s always had but never known how to express, when he rereads a book from his childhood, when he sits down after a long day to do something he loves—to follow a passion as fully as possible. The relationships formed from thinking so carefully about emotions, the dedication to work gained from reading and passion, the optimism from affirming that life is worth living, is complete, can be beautiful—these are some of the warmest experiences a person can have, and they all stem from writing.

Let the stereotype of the tortured writer rest. Focus instead on those comfortable images—that warmth hiding behind the emotional façade. Affirm that life is good and happy. And write about it.

-Jacob Dvorak, Senior Fiction Editor