Second blog -- answers to an ocean of prompts
|Prompt: Anais Nin said: “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
Do you think emotional excess is necessary for creativity and writing?
I don't fully agree, although I feel I have to weigh this question more thoroughly. While strong emotion is needed for great works of art, do we as writers need to experience that emotion as strongly as a person who has lived it? I think not; but then, empathy is evoked more strongly when we have lived through the same or similar ordeal as the other person.
On one side, great works of art have come from the strong feelings of their creators. History of great art attests to that. On the other side, people who have lived calmer lives have also managed to create great works.
This makes me think that empathy is more important than approaching any emotion in a dramatic way. In addition, feeling any emotion too strongly has its downfall. Although such hard-hitting emotion can inject some truth to a writing, it can also end up making the piece sappy, sentimental, and trite. (I know. I have written a couple of such pieces. )
On the other hand, if the writer can show that emotion objectively through empathy, his writing would be more convincing. In the case of fiction, for example, excess emotion would be what the characters would feel, but the writer’s job is to evoke in the reader those emotions his characters are experiencing. In this way, the writer becomes the channel to conduct emotion from the character to the reader. To be able to do that, does he need to have experienced that emotion to its full impact? I think he only needs to be familiar with that emotion and feel the empathy for the character through his imagination.
This brings up the fact that the writer and the artist need imagination to be able to create, in addition to empathy. If not for imagination, would the writers of Star Trek know how the travelers in the Enterprise would feel when they encountered strange incidents?
The question in the prompt opened up other questions for me, such as: Do a person's growth and his understanding of the other’s pain require personal pain? Not for everyone, I think; although, an example in one’s own life analogous to the character’s ordeal would help.
From this point of view, we should not be afraid to fall apart for a short time, because this will open up to a wider worldview and understanding of others’ experiences; as long as we don’t forget to acknowledge the lessons learned from mistakes and all experiences—ours and everyone else’s--and try to be able to apply those to our work. To be able to create by going to pieces at the gates of powerful emotions, however, sounds too far-fetched to me.