Creative process in writing: The emotional component

Asked by an interviewer with the Paris Review whether William Styron’s emotional state had any bearing on his work, Styron replied, “If writers had to wait until their precious psyches were completely serene, there wouldn’t be much writing done…”

Styron expanded on this by noting that in his case, although he found it “a pain” getting started writing each day, he nevertheless found that he was “…simply the happiest, the placidest, when I’m writing, and so I suppose, that for me is the final answer.”(1)

He added that when he is writing “it’s the only time that I feel completely self-possessed, even when the writing itself is not going too well.”

On the topic of whether  writers need some distance between them and their subject before they can write effectively, particularly if there is some emotional commitment with the subject matter, Styron commented, “I don’t think people can write immediately, and well, about an experience emotionally close to them. I have a feeling, for example, that I won’t be able to write about all the time I’ve spent in Europe until I get back to America” (2)

Near the end of the interview Styron commented, “The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.”(3)

(1) Quotations are from Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews, Edited by Malcolm Cowley, The Viking Press, New York, 1975

(2) Styron at the time of the interview was living in Paris

(3) Ironically, one of Styron’s most notable works is his memoir, Darkness Visible, a searing account of his personal battle with an extended period of severe depression.

Other major works include: The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie’s Choice, Lie Down in Darkness. William Styron was borne in 1925 and dies in 2006

Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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