Ironically, some of the best authors in history lived pretty horrendous lives. Sylvia Plath and Oscar Wilde, for example, were probably angry when their quills first scarred the manuscript. The words that were crafted sparked emotion, satire and a clever dose of shaming the inequality that leaked in society around them. Grouped together in a series of sentences and paragraphs, though, the frustrated and lonely words merged into a piece of art, which later – sometimes much later – became what is now considered a series of masterpieces.
I’ve heard that good writing comes from within, but within what, I have no idea. Personally, I find stories in the strangest of places. Sometimes ideas, imagination and inspiration can be discovered standing on my hands upside-down, for example, or at the bottom of a cold baileys on the rocks. But hey, as a junior in this world, what do I know?
One thing I think we can all agree on is that it’s easier to write about extreme events as opposed to what society brands as ‘normal’ day-to-day life. With that it mind, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why depression stalked so many incredible writers in history, especially those who society labeled’abnormal’. If they were around today, we would cross out adjective ‘irregular’ and replace it with ‘exceptional’ or ‘forward-thinking’.
‘Escape with me. Come into my world for a few minutes and leave yours behind’. Is that not why we pick up a book or a piece of writing in the first place, to forget what we know and understand the world we live in from a different perspective? Surly that’s more interesting and stimulating than if those views are always similar to your own. Could this be why those who have lived through difficult times, received terrible news and struggled to find the light at the end of tunnel, are as history suggests, better writers? If so, why on earth was that not on the English syllabus at school?
Before we go any deeper, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not categorising those who have had difficult years as better off or vice versa. Instead, my line of reasoning suggests that it is easier to write when you have something to channel as opposed to not having anything to set yourself apart from others. In the writing world, normal just doesn’t cut; it never has done. Instead, we get more engagement from our readers when we sensationalise topics and what is 100 percent true is no longer necessary. A little tinsel to the tale helps ‘bring it to life’. Maybe I need to explain this in more detail.
Let’s talk about ‘coming out’. If I had a pound for every article, blog, post or social media status that I read mentioning the trauma that follows after ‘letting the cat out the bag’, then quite frankly, I wouldn’t have to work ever again.
I can imagine that for those who did face long-term rejection from their family and loved ones after the experience wouldn’t have a problem finding the words to explain the emotions they felt, and perhaps still feel now. I’m not going to sell you a lie, my situation was somewhat easier than others and I haven’t got that elephant sitting in the corner of the room waiting to be heard. My story is boring compared many other novels on the topic. However, it could just be how I decide to tell it, completely as it was.
Of course there were some who had their issues, and a few didn’t hesitate to announce their shock-horror when they heard the colourful news, but over time things settled down and became, well, normal. The disagreements we had after that were natural. For a family of five including three teenage boys, growing up with squabbling, name-calling and the odd fist fight was part of the fun. It happened before I ‘came out’ and it sure as hell happened after I told the world I was a gay man. If one of the family members suddenly acts ‘camper than Christmas’ and is more sensitive than the others, they are going to be seen as an easy target. The pack may have taking a bite once in a while but the runt learned to bite back. The fighting was never focused on one vital member being gay, it was because there was too much testosterone under one roof. If anyone outside the pack had a pop at any other memeber, there was trouble. We may not have liked each other the whole time, but we all had each others backs.
So what’s a man do when he doesn’t need to prove a point to world, set the record straight for anyone or let his voice be heard? I’d say, continue living and look further than what’s happening one person.
I have written stories about remarkable men and women who have single-handedly changed the world. Some have fought in war zones, while others have saved lives against all odds. I have met people who have lost limbs, survived helpless situations and others who have just performed selfless acts out of pure kindness. They are the most amazing, humble and inspiring people. I can tell you now that their lives are far more interesting than the writer’s one. Also, their voices truly deserve to be heard and their stories need to be told.
This is where I disagree with many. The majority of the time, inspiration doesn’t come from within at all; it comes from what is around us. Whether that be through meeting magnificent people, seeing spectacular corners of the world and/or simply allowing others in. In order to write well, you must stop thinking about the writing and focus more on what you are writing about. The difficult part is finding the balance between adding your personal stamp and giving away too much information.