Miserable? Do I have to be?

. I was made very angry by another writer this week. This writer told me that I would never be a really good writer until I was miserable.

I couldn’t be a good writer with a flat of my own. I couldn’t be a good writer if I went on holiday. I couldn’t be a good writer if I ate properly. I couldn’t be a good writer with a decent job.

No, to be a good writer, I had work twice as hard at a job I hated to earn a pittance. I had to live in a filthy room in someone else’s house and never, never go on on holiday. I might be allowed a day at the seaside, but it had to be in winter, and I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it. Only then could I be a good writer.

Mind you, this person had never actually read anything I’d written. They were just making assumptions – only miserable people can be creative. Something about freeing my spirit from the shackles of ordinary life.

This person is quite a good writer. For the first ten minutes of reading their stuff, I was blown away. But after half an hour, the unremitting bleakness and sheer misery of his work was just too much. I ran away to read Anne of Green Gables instead.

There is a point to the argument, in a way. An environment can affect writing, and some of the most wonderful writing has come from someone yearning to escape their miserable world. But so has some of the very worst writing. Why shouldn’t I go on holiday if I can, as it’ll expand my mind and horizons? Why shouldn’t I eat properly, as I can’t write if I’m ill? Why shouldn’t I have a room of my own – it’s what Virginia Woolf wanted too. And just because I seem to have some quality of life doesn’t mean that I also don’t want to escape through my writing.

But I don’t see why I have to be miserable to be a good writer. I don’t think I have to be – and I won’t be.


By the way, I would like to congratulate Peter Bowker, Heidi Thomas, Guy Hibbert and the Writing Team of The Thick of It for being nominated for the one and only writing award for the television BAFTA’s, and Guy Hibbert for winning. The BBC chose not to show this part of the ceremony, believing public interest was best served by showing endless awards for reality shows. Apparently the people who are responsible for each and every word spoken on TV, every new idea, every plot, every great moment aren’t that important in BAFTA’s eyes. (And yes, I was angry about that too)


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