• The Cult of the Tortured Writer

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 6 comments

    One of Justine’s favorite writing quotes comes from Gene Fowler, who said, “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

    Meanwhile, at Big Think Jason Gots writes “The ‘tortured writer’ has been Woody Allen-ized into a kind of embarrassing caricature. We picture him in a bare studio apartment, hunched over at a collapsing, secondhand card table, surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper and possibly clutching at his furrowed brow.”

    What do you guys think? Has the “tortured writer” become a caricature? Should writing be a painful pursuit, or do we just pretend it is so that the act feels a little more romantic?

    The polls are open.


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    As a middle schooler, I was convinced my life was too happy for that of a writer, so I tortured myself by reading the Six Months to Live series by Lurlene McDaniel. Just type it into Amazon, and you’ll get all sorts of gems like, “Six Months to Live: I Want to Live.” “Six Months to Live: So Much to Live For.” “Six Months to Live: No Time to Cry.” Because, you know like, *kids with cancer.” That’s the stuff of tortured writers. Anyway, I do think some element of the tortured writer is true. Certainly, some phases of the… Read more »

    Laura Roberts

    I think writers tend to be the types who over-think everything anyway, so yeah, the Woody Allen cliché is fitting. Of course, writing isn’t all suffering, otherwise who would do it? Sometimes I think writers just like to exaggerate how hard it all is because they want people to think they have a special gift when, really, most people can sit down and start stringing words together. Yeah, they probably won’t be Shakespeare, but it’s not like writing is rocket science where you have to study for years before you can even think about beginning your work. So I guess… Read more »

    Jack Costello

    I agree with Laura–the truth is somewhere in the middle. But I think it’s much closer to “Tortured Writer = self-serving bullshit artist.” Writing isn’t always easy, but is it ever really debilitating, like so many of us pretend it is?

    Amanda Craig

    I think there are a lot of writers who sort of thrive in that cerebral space in their head and who don’t cultivate healthy habits, and they end up becoming the tortured writer as a result. Living in isolation or avoiding healthy, interpersonal relationships with real people can do that to a person. Writing should result in some honest soul searching, but if your life is in order and you’ve got people to bring you back to reality time-to-time, it really should not be a tortured existence. I don’t feel anyone should be wallowing in misery due to writing. But… Read more »

    Jose Skinner

    Benito Perez Galdos (great 19th-century Spanish writer, along the lines of Balzac and Dickens) said writing for him was “as easy as drinking a glass of water.” How romantic is that?


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