creative writing and anxiety

Creative Writing and Anxiety

A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend about the intense anxieties I get at night over the safety of my family. He said, “Yeah, that’s the curse of the artist, your active imagination.”

And after making thousands of connections in my creative writing, I finally made this one with my own life. What do we do in creative writing if not make surprising and unlikely connections (especially writing science fiction and poetry)? And the more I exercise the connection-making beast, the more easily it goes to work on my own life, especially at night when all the other noises of the day die down.

To be fair, imagination can bring you positive vision as well as anxiety. Yes, I worry over the worst possible scenarios, and believe me, imagination can create some nearly ridiculous and impossible scenarios. I also have grand (sometimes impossible) dreams of the future. And after a few years, neither of these will please your spouse.

Anxiety can be difficult to live with, but I’ve come to believe that someone has to be the worrier. Someone has to stay up at night thinking through these possibilities, so you’re not blind to the evil of the world. But it’s also good to have a partner or friend who can help you balance these fears with reality.

And as much as I believe in the capacity for evil among us, I believe in the possibility that our better natures will prevail too.

How to Anger English Teachers: Step 1

What is it with this maxim in creative writing to only use the word “said” for describing the action of dialogue? I hear this time and time again, and I’m just not buying it. Are words like” shouted” and “whispered” so distracting? But I wouldn’t stop there. I enjoy creative options like “spat” and” sobbed,” as well. The argument, I guess, is that readers are so easily distracted by interesting language that the moment they read that someone “chided” another, they’re immediately disconnected from the story. Really? Doesn’t descriptive language help to connect us more to a scene? Sure, you can go overboard with descriptive language and overwhelm the reader, but that’s really not what we’re talking about here. It’s a single verb. I feel like this is a case of either a) the ol’ bandwagon, or b) underestimating readers.

Caveat: I was an English teacher briefly and may well be one in the future.