I had lunch the other day with a very dear friend of mine who is a smart, talented writer and a scientist, who recently had her heart broken by her boyfriend of 11 months. She rightly feels betrayed. I was so saddened that the best I could do was listen. There was really nothing I could do to help, even having been in the same situation myself one time. There's nothing that can make a pain like this dissipate, except for time and maybe Scotch. ;-) But then I got to thinking: do broken hearts equal good writing?
My friend has no mind to write right now and I can understand that. Some pains are just too personal to run right out and start putting to paper. But many writers have turned romantic misfortune into valuable art. The wonderfully talented Adele turned her broken heart into an awesome album and something like 7,291 Grammy awards (I lost count). Yes, she is a singer/songwriter and not a story writer but the creative arts are the creative arts and songwriting is really a form of poetry in many ways.
I have found that sadness and part memories have fueled some of the best poetry I've ever written. In fact, I'm often more prolific when I am sad. (When I'm happy, I tend to catch up on the house cleaning I don't do when I'm sad...) Unlike short stories and novels, which I feel are open to audience interpretation, poetry is a more personal art form and it lends itself best to the chronicle of the heart. The short, curt sentences. The crisp meter. The words that have multiple meanings. The almost musical quality of the rhymes and word choices. Put together, it's emotion on paper and who can say if my emotion is right or wrong?
For us writers, like many other artists, it may be that getting our feelings on paper is the best form of psychiatric therapy when are lives are in low tide, not to mention that apart from the cost of paper and pen, it's the cheapest therapy out there. Maybe we need the pain to open us up to tell the true stories inside of us, the ones we like to normally keep in the dark. Even if broken hearts don't equal good writing necessarily, can it be said that broken hearts at least equal honest writing? And as artists, what we do with that honest writing is what makes all the difference.