In Dante’s Inferno, Virgil guides Dante to a place where he finds himself choosing to “turn back to look again upon the pass which never had a living person left.”
This is at times what it feels like in the colloquial workspace called “Writer’s Hell”. It does not
matter which type of writer’s employment (journalist, novelist, essayist, etc.) a writer’s craft entails or where
a writer finds him or herself in life, we all go through “Writer’s Hell” at some point in time. Pages and
ink can be a lonely place and writers are known to be miserable without writing AND with too much writing. “Writer’s
Hell” is a prerogative and a curse of the solitary pursuit of communication through the medium of the written language.
I have my own
tales to tell of working the writer’s craft, but a few words on how I see “Writer’s Hell” (from my
own perspective) are in order as I have found some strength in my life long pursuit of writing. There are three observations
to make about “Writer’s Hell”: 1) No one but the writer is in “Writer’s Hell” 2) “Writer’s
Hell” can spread further than the writer’s desk 3) Writing will not necessarily relieve the symptoms of “Writer’s
these points in mind, I find it necessary to observe that writing is based on life and that sacrificing your life for your
art form opens the door for a disconnection from communication that severely cripples a writer’s pen. On the other hand,
as a writer I can state that writing is central to being a writer and laying down my pen never made me any happier in life.
In fact, I quit for two and a half years to try to be a better wife and this made for more marital problems than I already
had in place.
are many well-written pieces on work/life balance, but a writer has a third element to deal with- the creative spark. The
creative spark can ignite at odd moments, die down to embers when it is needed, and cause fits of “Writer’s Hell”
if it is ignored. Work/life balance is healthy for most people. I have found that to incorporate a healthy creative spark
I have to have some loving care for my own needs directly pertaining to the page and pen. This becomes a “three-way”
balance (rather like a tri-pod) instead of either/or evenness.
There is not a way, as far as I know, to be a writer and not experience “Writer’s
Hell” in some fashion over the course of a writer’s life. No known cure is one hundred percent effective for every
writer as we all have our own personalities and quirks. In the middle of the hardest writing efforts and the crafting of endless
communications of written words, I think a quote from Mike & The Mechanics “The Living Years” says it
best: “…And if you don’t give up and you don’t give in you may just be okay.”
-Kimberly A. McKenzie