Can physical pain aid creativity?

This week I have been in agony with my tooth. It all started with a piece of chicken and three emergency dental appointments later, is yet to end. On my Saturday off I have made the effort to do some writing. This morning consisted of editing a new short story and reading Mslexia little MS online for updates on current novel trends and everything writerly. My choice to try and do some writing was partly to do with being active, partly to do with escaping the pain. Which leads me to question, can physical pain make us more creative? Are we closer to the edge, our emotions and ideas more heightened with the tinge of pain behind them? Or is it simply a waste of our time when we should give in the pain and take to bed? Does being creative actually take us out of ourselves, away from the physical feelings therefor easing our distress? Many mental health studies have noted the importance of keeping active and being creative when faced with troubled times, if simply as a way of expression and distraction. Some of the most effective and successful work I have written has been under the tension of a stressful or painful time. Does that not make it easier for us to access the less pleasant emotions, to fully live the lives of our characters?

I know that difficult times can certainly put a strain on the flow of creativity. When you’re anxiously looking at the clock, or half listening for the phone to ring it’s difficult to fully let go and enter into the spirit of writing. And of course when you aren’t feeling yourself, your mood is low, therefore affecting your self confidence and perhaps making you more self critical. It’s often hard to stay focused too, when your mind keeps jumping from the words you’re creating to the area of your body that wants attention.

Last year I watched the ITV adaptation of The C Word (starring the fabulous Sheridan Smith) which was based on the story of Lisa Lynch, a talented writer and editor who developed breast cancer at the age of 28. I was so inspired by her story and her use of writing as a way of dealing with the horrific experience in a ‘warts and all’ style blog with razor sharp wit, I ordered the book straight away. I tweeted my reaction to the series (it was retweeted by her brother and the actor who played him) and told everyone I knew about her story. In truth, I connected with it.  So maybe it’s not always about writing for yourself, although that’s what Lisa set out to do, it’s also about relaying truth, emotions and ideas to others. Sharing thoughts, knowing someone is listening even if they aren’t responding. For Lisa, people did respond. She gained a lot of support, she helped a lot of people and she felt better for writing through the pain.  And, although sadly she passed away before the TV series aired, she has left a legacy behind which many are still to discover.

For me, I feel better just by writing something. Writing is a big part of my make up, and when I’m not doing that I don’t feel whole. It’s like a chemical reaction, as soon as my fingers tap the keys I feel happy, I feel right. I make sense of the world through words and images. Self expression. So I will continue to write though the pain, to distract, to discover and ultimately in tribute to the many others who have taken to their keyboard when times have been incredibly bleak. In my view, that’s what makes a great writer.

Writing my future?

So, I’ve had this thought for a while. But each time I think it, I discount it as a coincidence, or me reading into my own writing too much. After all, you can’t write your own future can you?  As writers, we all know that our every day lives influence our work. That in each character, each story we create, there is always going to be part of ourselves embedded there. Even as a fiction writer I am aware of it. I write about what I know, what I’ve experienced, who I’ve met; but also what I would like to experience. It’s taking the risks without having to deal with the consequences. Sky diving, anyone? Lately though, I’ve been reading back through my novella, just bits here and there as I prepare to send it off to various agencies and publishers. I have noticed similarities with my story and the people in my life. At first, it was just things like names. And there’s huge coincidence in the fact that you write about a Sophie, and then one appears in your life, right? But then there were other things, like a description of a male character with eyes that appeared dark but were actually blue. Cue a new man in my life with eyes just like that. Can I really be writing my future? Maybe I should write about a girl who wins £100,000?

I’ve never been a particular believer of fate. I read my horoscopes (with a pinch of salt), I make decisions and stick with them. I am superstitious. No new shoes on the table, umbrellas up indoors or walking under ladders for me. But I draw the line at jumping over cracks in the pavement. Who wants to look like they’re having multiple electric shocks? But it’s interesting how many connections I’ve made. Maybe my exploring through my writing is actually pushing me to try new things. Like a kind of dummy run for real life. The pleasure in my writing is watching my characters learn and grow, and ultimately seeing them overcome obstacles and be happy.

It’s fascinating seeing how my writing changes with each project. How the themes progress  with my age. I guess it’s kind of like doing a psychological study on myself. I’m learning as much about myself as the world I create.

So maybe it is one big coincidence. Maybe I’m thinking that writing is less about subconscious than it actually is.  Maybe, once the thoughts are down on paper, it frees me to follow them through. It will be interesting, either way, to see where my next novel takes me.