Is death a doorway to the life of our writing?

Posted: February 13, 2011 in writing, Writing Career Development
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Is pain a gateway to creativity?

A gifted author decided to open up on a writers’ forum of which I am a member, about the recent death of his pet cat. It was not so much the subject that touched others as well as myself, but the way he wrote about the passing of his beloved member of the family.

He waited with his pet at the vets while the poor creature was put to sleep due to terrible injuries. The writer talked about looking into his cat’s eyes and realising the moment life left its damaged body; the visibility of separation.


I found his account moving and honest.

After a few private tears (memories triggered of my own losses), I began thinking about death and pain; about how we use the negative emotions they create and channel them into our work.

Could any of us write about death, pain, loss or hurt in a believable way without ever experiencing any or all of them for ourselves? I think not.

I read in a recent article that a certain amazing British soul singer / ex heroin addict wrote her best-selling album whilst going through the terrible pain of a break up, and has not found it so easy now that her life is in order……….

So, to reiterate the questions above: is death / loss a gateway to real life, and to the life of your writing?

Does the pain we are forced to endure open up our creative floodgates?

What are your feelings on this? Feel free to tell me about any of your own experiences, i’m interested. What emotions trigger your most impressive / believable writing?

Feel free to post in the comments section. If you agree, I would like to use your experiences in a future blog post.

  1. TopCat2x2 says:

    One does not reach mature adulthood without experiencing pain or loss in one form or another. I don’t know that endured pain opens up our creative floodgates so much as brings everything in your life down to its simplest level. Without all the clutter that’s normally involved with day to day living, all that’s left are the most basic emotions. At that point feelings, thoughts, emotions, and so on are very clear and easier to write about. Just a thought.

  2. I would have to agree with you. Many of the greatest writers and thinkers believed in almost the “divinity” of human suffering and pain. A great example is Oscar Wilde, De Profundis is a pretty epic meditation on how suffering can be translated into many profound realizations.
    Another example of this is Martin Luther King and his letter from Birmingham jail. Certainly some of the greatest minds used suffering and oppression as inspiration.
    There is also evidence of this if you look among many Eastern European composers of the 20th century.

    I would say that one could fabricate an article about death without having personally experienced it. Ofcourse much of writing has to do with templates and geshtalts, but I would probably agree that it is harder to fake originality, especially whilst trying to communicate such deep emotions.

  3. Themiserableranter – Great examples of how deep emotional responses have triggered some of the greatest / most moving works.
    I agree that it is much harder to fake originality and personal expression of ones own pain or suffering. To write about true emotion, you have to feel it deep inside. The pain should hurt, the love should make you tingle.
    Great comment, thanks πŸ™‚

  4. Tony says:

    It’s all about imagination versus experience, isn’t it. I think experience will usually come out on top, but when writing fiction from experience we still need to use our imaginations, too. And, of course, no writer can have experienced everything he writes about (unless he severely limits his subject matter). So he must resort to imagination – informed imagination, backed by copious research. But are there certain subjects that just can’t be accurately portrayed if they haven’t been experienced? Can an actor create on stage a moving love scene with his leading lady, if he has never actually been in love? Perhaps there are exceptional actors who can, and possibly exceptional writers who can write convincingly without ever having experienced anything similar, but for the rest of us, the advice to write from experience must hold good.
    But the other side to the question is, do we write better in the midst of, or having been through deeply emotional experiences? Death of a loved one? Physical pain? Drugs? Ecstatic happiness? I don’t think it would only be pain and death. If there is a correlation, it must be there for any extremes of emotion, surely? I would say the answer would vary from person to person. We’re all different, so we will all be affected differently. Our writing may improve; our writing may suffer; or cease. Open the floodgates; or close them. It’s up to us. And perhaps, although we are all different, we can all learn to turn every experience, good or bad, traumatic or mundane, into inspiration, or at least into archive material to be drawn on when our writing requires it. Write on.

    • What a great and concise comment Tony, thanks for taking the time to write it. This is all about an individual perspective of course, but I think we all agree (so far). It’s a shame anyone has to feel pain, but its part of what makes us who we are. Thanks again

  5. […] was a piece from Kirie The Persistent Writer, whom I befriended yesterday on twitter, concerning the inspiration and motivation a writer can […]

  6. @dougbremner says:

    Great post πŸ™‚

  7. Thank you Doug! That means a great deal πŸ™‚

  8. Bob says:

    Enjoyed the post and the comments. Writing about deep emotional experiences can be a way of coping with them – at least it has been for me. I’ve coped with the deaths of friends by writing poems, and my writing since started as a catharsis after the death of my wife. However, I hope the writing eventually transcends the immediate pain and suffering.

  9. […] was moved by a post on Kirie’s blog . She relates the experience of a writer who told so movingly about the death of his cat. This […]

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