It was Graham Greene, wasn’t it, who said that every writer should have a chip of ice inside his heart. This has more than one interpretation, some of them not very nice, but I used to think it meant this: however tragic our situation, or someone else’s, there is a detached part of us that is storing up details so that we may one day write about it.
Does this make us callous? Hard hearted? Exploitative? Should we be ashamed of ourselves? Well, that’s debatable. Do I do this? Yes, I can’t help it, I’m a writer. I sell emotion. (as all writers must).
But I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’d like to put forward another theory of mine. Actually it’s not a theory; for me it’s a fact.
Writing about emotions that I’ve felt, especially grief or sadness or anger, is immensely cathartic. I write about them because if I didn’t I would go stark raving mad – OK madder than I already am!
I have to write these things out of my system, it helps me to stay sane. It helps me to cope with the awful things life can throw at you sometimes.
And actually I think it helps others too – I write out my emotions in fiction and on the whole I write fiction with upbeat endings. I hope my readers will find identification in what I write and find some comfort in my stories. I really do – and, as it happens, I have many letters from readers who have said that this is exactly how it works.
Gosh, I didn’t know I had such a bee in my bonnet (sorry for the cliché) about this. I would love to know what you think.