The Importance of Melancholy


MeloncholyThe well worn stereotype of the writer that all of us are familiar with: the crazed, depressed, all together mopey person who takes things too seriously, to dramatically, and is altogether tiring to be around. I recognize that if you are only that kind of writer (or, more likely, you act this way in order to prove to others that you are in fact a writer), this post will do little to make you stop acting like a broken hearted teenager. If, however, you just note that you indeed go into horrible funks or seem to take things a bit harder than others, I’m here to tell you that it’s alright. Point in fact, it’s probably really healthy that you do it. Melancholy is, for lack of a better way of putting it, part of the writer’s toolkit.

There is a trend in society of always being happy. If you don’t believe me, take a glance over at Facebook for your paradigm of mindless desire for ever-joy. People are cutting out the entire experience of being human (or at the very least over-emphasizing the happy sunshine bit of human existence), and ignoring the unhappy, brooding side. The danger there is two fold for a writer, I feel. In one way you’re cutting off your ability to effectively write anything but positive stories or characters. I don’t believe that a writer needs to experience everything they write about, but I do think they need to understand how the human mind experiences emotion–and by ignoring unhappiness or negativity, a writer ignores an enormous truth about living on this little planet.

The other danger is that a writer who is very happy generally doesn’t write. This isn’t always true, of course (I don’t think Dr. Seuss  got tanked, threw over his desk, cursed the skies and then wrote Green Eggs and Ham. Maybe he did, I don’t know); but it’s true in my case and a damned fine amount of other writers: we need our pain, our unhappiness, to sit down and write out what’s brewing up inside ourselves.

I’m writing all of this, poorly I might add, to get to this point: it’s okay to feel down in the dumps. It’s okay to not be happy with who you are or what you are (as long as you don’t do that constantly and to a point where you are hurting yourself, of course). This is the human experience: you can’t always be on top of the world unless you’re brainwashing your human experience, which is a very dangerous thing to do as someone who wants to write. To that same end, it’s important to recognize when you’re happy and explore that emotion, too–it’s just that people don’t try to talk you out of being happy, normally, but they sure as hell will talk you out of being sad, or at least try like hell to.

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