Can happy, well-adjusted people be writers?

A Young Student at His Desk: Melancholy by Pieter Codde
A Young Student at His Desk: Melancholy by Pieter Codde

Much of my life has been spent in pursuit of melancholy – the romantic kind that drove young people like Sylvia Plath to early suicide or death.  Yes, I am a moron.  But so often the successful writer is portrayed as a tortured soul with never a moment’s respite from inner demons or outer strife.

In many cases this may be true.  But much like seeking humility drives it away, thirsting for personal tragedy is stupid.  And unproductive.  And besides, grief finds us all eventually, and in its own way.

It is not really the terrible depths of depression that the artistic seek.  It is the contrast — the contrast of human experience from grief to elation.  While both are valid, and the distance between them opens our eyes to the fullness of life, most of us artsy/romantic types choose to pursue grief over joy.  Why?  Because to pursue joy, while bringing about the same potential for contrast, stinks of egotistical self-love, self-esteem and self-promotion.  The pursuit of melancholy, on the other hand, keeps alive the option of martyrdom while not requiring the liking of one’s self.

Can one write and still be well-adjusted?  Maybe.  But to pursue anything else would be false and a betrayal of our calling to inspire our fellow humans.  So, here is to happiness (or I should say, “to the desiring of joy.”)

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