Sunday, February 22, 2009

Days of Futures Past

After aiding Chris with his girl problems our discussion somehow turned to my writing. I informed Chris that I currently have two unfinished novels sitting on my hard drive. He asked to read them, so I emailed him the files. Of course, after I sent the files, I immediately began to re-read them for myself. What I read both impressed me and troubled me at the same time.

The longer of the two unfinished works, Pair Bonding, is 94 pages of dense, elaborate, and dark storytelling. I haven't worked on it in earnest for almost a decade. The bulk of it was written during long nights at Waffle House through numerous periods of depression throughout my early 20s. It, along with the second novel, is a part of a time travel series based on a character I created during my junior year in high school.

The second novel, Lessons to Learn, is much more current. In fact, I originally came up with the story after my break up with Ex. I've only written 20 pages of it so far, though the goal, as with Pair Bonding, is to have between 200-250 pages at completion, as I've never been a fan of books longer than 300 pages in length. The tone of Lessons to Learn is far more hopeful and upbeat. Unfortunately, the writing, as a result, isn't at all as good as in the writing in Pair Bonding.

I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I've long observed that some of the best writing comes from depressed people. Authors like Edgar Allen Poe and Ernest Hemingway wrote literature which will be read for generations, all while being depressed alcoholics. And I've read psychological studies in recent years which point to a correlation between depression and hypersensitivity to minute details which could explain how depressed writers are able to paint such vivid pictures with words. So, does this mean that as long as I'm not depressed I'll never be able to write as well as I did when I was trying to escape my pain by withdrawing into my own creative universe?

Of course, that raises a whole other proposition. Is the loss of my best writing ability an equivalent exchange for improved self-efficacy, self-esteem, and overall happiness? I used to think that true happiness could only come from exploiting your natural talents to their fullest. Granted, I can be happy without writing, but there is something special which comes from knowing that people enjoy my work and having them offer validation of my talent.

Nowadays, validation, for me, comes in the form of good grades and new friendships. It's a validation of me as a whole person rather than simply a validation of a specific skill. And perhaps that is the way it should be, because it is too easy to pass my writing off as something separate from me as a person. I can say that writing is a "natural" talent as opposed to something that I am personally responsible for through my own deeds. But good grades and relationships are something which I have to cultivate with my own actions. And each new step is rewarded with a greater sense of personal achievement for which there is no equivalent exchange.

And let's face it... I'm still a pretty good writer!

Have fun and keep living life... and exploit your talents to the fullest!

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