10 January 2010

Caution: Writing May be Hazardous to Your Health

Not every writer I work with admits to her flaw(s) but many do. The more prevalent flaws I encounter operate exactly like the protagonist's flaw in a story = the internal flaws of feeling not good enough, smart enough, or producing enough do more to sabotage the writer (and protagonist) from achieving her goals than any outside antagonist ever can.

Writers who have labored for years start when hopeful and stop when fraught with insecurity and fear (both of success and of failure). They do this over and over again. Sadly what often happens as they strive for their dreams with perseverance and determination is only to give up in the end.

Then there are the writers who find strength and determination not within their own personal power but with drugs and alcohol. These writers concern me the most because of my own demons I have struggled with over the years. 

These writers often start when sober and stop when the drugs and alcohol become more important than the writing. Often what triggers the angst is the writing itself. In supporting these writers through a writing project I am always asking myself if what I am doing is helpful or even healthy for an addict. 

Heavy-duty addicts in my experience are generally too sensitive for the world around them and they believe that being numb is the only way they can deal with life. In guiding these writers deeper into their writing projects, we wade deeper and deeper into the pain that first brought on their self-abuse through drugs and alcohol. 

Recently one writer kindly wrote to me: You keep coming up with new ways to help us poor struggling writers.

I try, yet still after all these years and all these writers I have worked with, I have not found a way to help a writer write about their nightmares without having them relive the pain as they write. Yes, if the writer can slog through the Middle and survive the Crisis, they come away not only better writers for it, they come out stronger in their own personal lives as well.

My only saving grace is the confidence I hold in the writers I work with and all those of you out there I will never have the honor of helping that you are better than the addiction and that you are strong enough to find solace in leaving the drama on the page.