Friday, August 16, 2013

Will Writing a Book Kill Me?

Kind of a weird blog post by author David Biddel: When Novels Become Assassins: the Problem with Writing on the Edge. I confess, I've read nothing else by him, and approached the topic skeptically to begin with. But, it's an interesting question.

Any obsessive behavior is supposed to be alarming, but there's always the line. When is it too much? When should it be interrupted? For a dog example, there's a point at which I'll tell Elka, my Doberman, to be done if she's been licking. What harm can excessive licking have? Well, there's the matter of tremendous wet spots on the bed or couch where she's been laying. There's hair that will get in her gums, and I'd prefer she not have some kind of weird mouth infection. If she was an obsessive licker (thank God, my particular Doberman does not have OCD. Some do.), there's a thing called "lick granuloma", where a dog obsessively licks the same spot, until he or she bleeds, and continues to lick some more.

But. Writing. There isn't really a question, I don't think, if writing obsessively can affect your health. If you don't eat, don't sleep, don't leave the house...these things are unhealthy. These things can lead to health problems, and an intervention would be necessary at some point. This isn't really what David Biddle was talking about, though.

What Biddle talked about was the affect that writing Bad Things can have on oneself. What he asks is, if,
"More to the point, is it possible that writers leave themselves open to self-destruction in general because they go so far into the unconscious mind and try their hand at the black magic of dredging weird myths and stilted meaning out of that thing that is probably only supposed to be the engine for normal human dreams and nightmares?"
I think this can be possible. There is a certain darkness that some writers find themselves confronting, and having to wrestle with, that non writers might never encounter. Do I think Mr. Biddle's abdominal cyst occurred as the result of his having written what he considered to be an "unnerving, possibly amoral, anarchic, and, certainly, nihilistic as hell" story? No, I don't personally think that. If we as humans still operated under notions of different humors, I might say that he suffered from too much black bile, but we don't.

I don't want to scoff at somebody else's experience just because I haven't shared it. Maybe if I one day write something dark enough, I'll find myself struggling with myself physically and emotionally in a way that grows beyond just the novel.  And really, I could stand to miss a couple of meals.

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