Writing and Catharsis

Writing can be cathartic.  You take all your pent up emotions and splash them across the page.  You give voice to a side of your psyche which has none.  You rewrite conversations the way they were supposed to go.  You give your characters the joys life denied you.  You revel in every self indulgent whim, fulfill every fantasy.  There are hearts and lollipops and puppies everywhere and everyone has a happy ending.  SARCASM ALERT.  This may be cathartic, but it’s also unhealthy and produces terrible fiction.  Flush it out of your system if you must and then flush it down the toilet.  Your mind is a kaleidoscope of colorful emotions and this is monochromatic filth.

Clear you mind.  Set your baggage aside.  Get ready to write.  I don’t know about you (I really don’t, that first paragraph was pure self-projected supposition), but sometimes, when I get ready to write, I feel the strongest urge to walk away.  Pick up my baggage and walk away from the pressure and the expectations and the promise of something wonderful or awful or I don’t know what.  I tell myself I will come back later…when I’m in the mood.  When the stars have aligned.  In my darker moments I wonder if that qualifies me as the purest dilettante or the most sublime hack.  To paraphrase Frank Herbert’s character Gurney Halleck: “Mood?  What has mood to do with it? You [write] when the necessity arises — no matter the mood! Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It’s not for [writing].”  Whether that came from the heart of one of his characters or a soapbox proxy for Herbert’s own views, I agree with the sentiment (especially when voiced by the hearty, dulcimer tones of Patrick Stewart playing Gurney Halleck.)  There is no proper mood to write.  Waiting for the right time is a fool’s proposition: neither the right time nor the right mood will ever come.  Writing is the pure white light of your imagination — not white as in clean and unadulterated, but white as in a chaotic melange of every emotive color in your mind — and variety is the spice of life.  The spice must flow.

So write from your heart, but don’t bleed out all over the page.  I am just getting over a wonderful relationship which ended in a blaze of broken hearts and blame (hence the recent hiatus).  If I were dictating my next book based on my darkest, most prominent mood swings, I would break out the black clothes, smudge the black eye shadow, and goth that keyboard hard until the screen bled black.  I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to write a lighthearted fantasy epic.  Then I’m going to write a romance where the characters will be my creations, not my mouthpieces.  You can’t outline your life.  You should outline your books (more on this next week).  A good book is fantastic, but books should fulfill the fantasies of their readers, not their authors.

Thanks for reading!


J. H. Bardwell