For some people, the image of a writer is that of a troubled soul which is never at peace with the world, someone who never quite makes it and who has to endure much hardship in order to become the writer destiny intended them to be.
The examples are innumerable. Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t make a penny and was found nearly frozen to death in a ditch before dying in a hospital. H. P. Lovecraft could also barely sell his writing, dying penniless at a young age of 46. Innumerable others struggled with drugs, insanity and infamy.
But, does hardship really make a better writer? Is it perhaps a prerequisite for stellar writing?
No Need To Be Destitute
First of all, let’s answer the second question. No, hardship is not a prerequisite for great writing. There are plenty of amazing writers who did perfectly fine in life and whose comfortable lives didn’t take anything away from their writing. Also, starting off poor and making money thanks to your writing is not selling out. You have every right to reap the fruits of your toil. Do not feel bad about.
Now that we got that out of the way, it is time to look at a few ways in which hardships definitely do help with one’s writing. In other words, the next time things get really rough, keep these in mind and they might just be the silver lining at that moment. Not much of a silver lining, but some.
Tragedy Exposes You To Extreme
The majority of our lives are not extreme. If they were, they wouldn’t be considered extreme. If we were to use a 1 to 10 scale where 1 and 2 are excruciating hardship and true tragedy and 9 and 10 are pure exhilaration, the majority of our lives are spent somewhere between 4 and 7, approximately.
Tragedy gets you all the way down to 1 and 2. These are the extremes. They do not happen too often in our lives, which is probably for the better. At such times, we discover parts of ourselves that we do not experience that often. Certain things get illuminated in ways that change our entire being. Even on a purely biological level, your brain is changed. Some might say these are the only moments when we are truly awake (this might be a bit too pessimistic).
These things add to your experience and this experience matures you as a person and, indirectly, as a writer. This is especially true for fiction writers.
Wanting Makes You Focused
The life of an average modern person in the majority of developed and even developing world is a life of distractions. There are so many distractions out there that I cannot even be bothered to be focused to write about them. Do you see where I am going with this?
When you have a (non-leaking) roof above your head and you know where you next three meals are coming from, you can easily get distracted. If you lack discipline, this can have very negative effects on your writing. A unit of writing will never be truly great unless you have focused on it with undivided attention.
Wanting, or chronic hardship if you want, it makes you focused. As a freelancer who cannot get steady work, every text is crucial because it is literally the next meal. Nowadays, the modern freelancer always has options like doing paid surveys or testing websites, but there are still those moments where the pressure is increased.
A copywriter who loses a job (for whatever the reason) and realizes that such jobs do not exactly grow on trees, those few months living without a steady salary can be very focusing. You almost get a feeling that your fingers are tauter and that your mind is working a bit better when the possibility of being hungry knocks at the door.
Writing As Healing
When times are bad, it can be difficult to just power through it and stop thinking about everything that makes it the “bad times”. In such a situation, writing can be something of a healing. Focusing on writing can make you forget all about your worries as you craft one idea after the other and make all those connections that set apart truly great writing.
In such situations, you often discover new love for writing, even if you had plenty of it to start with. You start to appreciate writing in a whole new way and this inspires you to become even better.
When hard times knock on the door and you power-write your way through them, you discover a new beauty in writing and in the future, when you start questioning your love for writing, you remember those times when writing healed you.
Hardship can definitely have positive effects on the quality of your writing, but I would never tell you to go seeking trouble and misery just so you can become a better writer.
There is plenty of misery in this world that will find you without you looking for it.
Was that too depressing an ending?
Well, maybe it’s just befitting.