Recently, I came across this article featuring Jhumpa Lahiri, best known for her novel, the Namesake.
Expecting some great life-affirming truths the author wished to impart on the world (which in a way, she did), I was shocked by what the article did clarify for me. Truth: I am not a fan of Lahiri's work. I think she's a brilliant writer, and has written brilliant books. But, I am a happy-ending kind of reader and I find her stories a bit too melancholy...actually I find them depressing.
Even before I started writing, when I looked at novels purely from a reader's perspective, I found something missing in her stories. I've read only two: the Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth. What I found missing was sunshine. Happiness. A meaning to the sadness within her characters and stories. For me, there has to be one. It's fine to write about the sadder truths of life, but there must be a reason for it. In fiction especially, I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to be left with that glimmer of a rainbow. And I don't get that from Lahiri's works. I understand that others might. But I don't, at all.
So, the article about her move to Italy and back validated some things I'd always thought about her. That she's uncomfortable with her lot in life. She feels misplaced in most surroundings. Mainly, she's a depressive personality. And maybe the reason why her work reflects that. She could've chosen to paint the article in a positive light about experiencing a new culture or broadening the horizons of her family, but she chose to focus on her inner displacement and non-fulfillment issues.
What I don't understand is if she doesn't feel like an "expert" then why teach Creative Writing at Princeton? Those students enrolled in that class expect an expert teacher. If being a writer feels "fraudulent" in some way then find another way to fulfill your creative side. The world has many, many options, you know. Find one that appeals to you, speaks to you. Don't beat the same door, if it doesn't make you happy. Some people don't have a choice and are stuck in professions that don't fulfill them. Lahiri does have a choice (after several bestsellers and a pulitzer, you bet she does) and yet is choosing to be stuck. Why?
Which brings me to this article: WHY WRITER'S ARE PRONE TO DEPRESSION The gist:
~ some writers feel the need to FEEL all what their characters feel. If the character is suffering or is miserable, well then, the writer is screwed. (Bloody hell, Hemingway!)
~ it's a solitary occupation. Writers tend not to interact much with the outside world, especially while writing.
~ that leads to feelings of loneliness and of being misunderstood.
~ sometimes writing leads to lack of exercise, lack of basking in the sunshine and/or people-bonding, which are recipes for depression.
The article gives some great advice on how to combat the Writer Syndrome...or at least try to voluntarily or by force. Get exercise. Go look at the sun, flowers, water or forest. Socialize. Get those endorphins chugging.
The only point I sort of disagree with is about joining writer groups. While it may be a necessary beast to tackle, I think if you're not a group sort of person, then it's not for you. Though for a beginner writer writing groups can be the boost you need to push forward.
So, long story short, this is what I picked up from the two articles: Every writer must follow his/her own Yellow Brick Road home. A writer's journey is individual and personal, there isn't a ONE SIZE FITS ALL Dorothy Shoe. I am a happy writer. :)