Does the poet need the pain?

I recently told a friend of mine that I wished I could be as zen as he is.  I’m so frequently anxious, annoyingly introspective, and easily agitated.  “Things get to me so much,” I said to him.  “I’d be happier if I could let things roll off my back like you do.”

But then again, what kind of a writer would I be if I were more laid-back?  Someone once said “the poet needs the pain.”  (Who was it who said that, anyway?  It could have been Shakespeare or friggin’ Bon Jovi for all I know…)  If that’s true–and I’m thinking (well, hoping) that it is–then I’m in good shape as a writer.  Even when things appear lovely on the outside (and I’m great at making them appear so), my mind is always going.  My six-word memoir could read, “in trying to play, she thinks.”

Where is the conflict in just being chill all the time?  I’ve read books that don’t have any central plot, conflict, or character growth.  They’re snooze fests.

Another teacher/writer friend of mine said that he finds that when he is least satisfied with his life, and his teaching life in particular, he magically finds more time and motivation to write.  And that makes sense, doesn’t it?  Writing is such an outlet, such an escape from and reflection of the outward conflict of our lives.  Even when I’m writing fiction that doesn’t mirror my life in an obvious way, it is still a representation of who I am and what I’m going through.  Or, for that matter, what I’ve already gone through.  It may not be a literal diary, but it is a documentation of me as a person and my life.  Sure, when I’m in a good, healthy place I still write.  And I still enjoy writing at those times.  But the best writing that I’ve done–the stuff that is gritty and real and interesting–comes from some of my most challenging moments.

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