Hey, writers! Hannah here. This week, author and therapist Samantha Heuwagen is here to talk about how pain kills creativity.
We’ve both seen more talk lately about how writers must suffer for their art. While pain and the human condition can influence the stories we write, neither of us thinks that “suffer for your art” is a helpful narrative. Samantha was kind enough to offer her perspective on this topic as both as a successful author and professional therapist. Let’s get started!
As an author and therapist, I’ve heard some pretty crazy things concerning the writer’s life as of late. Most of it surrounding pain vs. creativity. “There has to be some amount of pain in order to access the muses if you want to write a good story.” Or “If you haven’t given anything up or hurt in the process of writing, well then, you’re just not really an author.”
Lies, all of it!
I’ve been writing professionally in one way, shape, or form for a decade. And not once has pain altered my ability to create a decent body of work. Pain hasn’t given me a leg up. It didn’t make characters magically do what I want them to do. It also never ever gave me a plot idea that worked. But you know what it did do? It killed my sense of self, my self-care, and vision for my writing career.
How Pain Kills Sense of Self
If pain is a driving force, it’s also a force to demolish joy—and isn’t that the reason we write in the first place? We have something to say, and the art of writing burns deep within us. If pain is the fuel we use for creation, it comes at such a high price, I worry that we wouldn’t be able to maintain it.
For me, life without joy is not my goal. Writing long term takes a lot of effort, time, money, resources, and focus. If I were to give up my joy of writing, where would have leave me? Nowhere I want to be. That kind of pain makes the one thing I love undesirable, killing part of who I am: The Author.
We all experience pain in our lives. Some of it shapes our stories and allows us to process the intense emotions around it. That in and of itself is a beautiful thing. However, if pain is the only thing sustaining our writing and author self, can you follow that path long term? Can you honor the part of you—the part in all of us—that experiences pain and hold on to your joy?
How Pain Kills Self-Care
Self-care isn’t just a tool and term found in therapy sessions across the world. It’s something all of us have to do in order to stay sane in these changing times. Self-care is taking time to replenish our sense of equilibrium by giving back to ourselves.
For me, writing started out as self-care during grad school. Now, it’s a full-time job. A job I love, but a job none the less. That means I have to be very focused on other things I enjoy to give me the space to not burn out or worse. If pain is my driving force, then I am not truly doing self-care, I am self-harming. See where I’m going with this?
Bowing down to old stereotypes about suffering for your art isn’t helpful. You love writing! So let’s keep those feelings alive and well.
How Pain Kills Your Writing Goals
Pain has a way of clouding our judgement and blocking out all the positivity. When pain enters the picture, it usually creates fear. This can rob us of the roadmap we’ve laid out for our lives, making it impossible to hit our writing (and other) goals.
If I had let fear stop me from pursuing my publishing goals, I wouldn’t be here as an author of four books, and The Starless Series would have stayed locked away in my imagination forever. When I think of that, I think of my clients and readers—the ones impacted by my books—and I shudder. What a sad prospect.
Whatever your goals are with writing, pain and fear will rob you of your journey. It will make an already hard road that much more difficult. The writer’s life is already filled with twists and turns, let’s enjoy the bumpy ride.
Steps You Can Take If You’re Struggling
If you find yourself leaning on these harmful stereotypes and quotes about writing, here are a couple of tricks to try:
- Create a community of supportive (writing) friends who can help you reframe your thoughts and honor your work.
- Create a solid toolbox full of different kinds of self-care items. For example, I love moving my body by taking daily walks and hiking on the weekends. While in between client sessions at work, I make sure I have a full water bottle and if I can, I read for pleasure.
- Keep a journal of your goals.
- Reframe, reframe, reframe! Honor yourself by checking in on your mental health and being mindful of your expectations. Many authors, including myself, didn’t get to where we are in a day. It took time and a solid mindset to be on this writer’s life journey.
- Seek professional help. If you’re struggling, find a mental health care provider in your area to help sort out what is going on for you and create a safe place to process.
However you see your writing journey, know that you as a writer are worthy of joy, self-care, and can reach your goals. None of it has to hurt either. Showing up as you is enough. The world is waiting to hear your stories.
Samantha’s books are available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited! The first book in the her Starless Series, Dawn Among the Stars, is available to read for free on Kindle July 28 – August 1st. The fourth and final book in her series, In the Wake of Stars, is out on August 2nd.
You can connect with Samantha on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.
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