25 May 2005

Intense emotions

“Creative people need intense emotions to inspire their work,” says Stuart Fischoff, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles, as quoted by Shelley Widhalm in an article “Madness to their Method” in The Washington Times. Prof Fischoff goes on to say, “When you’re writing, you live with yourself and your ideas. You’re in your head a lot… You end up taking your own counsel and reinforcing your own ideas, which may be deluded. You don't have any reality testing.”

Ms Widhalm’s article specifically refers to cult writer Hunter S Thompson who committed suicide in February this year at the age of 67. In his famous 1971 book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (also made into a film by Terry Gilliam), Thompson – a journalist and writer, and heavily into alcohol and drugs – wrote, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Would Ernest Hemingway agree? I wonder.

“Writing a novel takes stamina and mental effort. As you get older it starts to feel like physical effort…” says Ian McEwan from England, in an interview to France Hardy in The Mail on Sunday. McEwan also delves deep into the dark recesses of the human psyche, but (he says) he does this for pure fictional purpose – for his characters in his stories. Although his stories have earned him “a reputation for writing literature to shock because of its preoccupations with sexualised children and violent relationships,” McEwan is noted for his gentle and sophisticated ways.

Hunter S Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath – drunk and depressed, unable to face reality, committed suicide. Ian McEwan, 56, winner of several literary awards, a father of two grown-up boys (from his first marriage which ended with some rancour almost ten years ago), and now happily into his second marriage, may however live a long and happy life.

According to Prof Fischoff (Ms Widhalm quotes): “Emotions liberate us to see the world in different ways and to reach deep in our unconsciousness and souls… and without these emotions, what they [creative people] produce could sell millions but never be truly creative.” Should I agree? I wonder.

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