Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Angsting Over the Blog Chain

It's time for the wild ride that is the blog chain. Strap yourselves in people, this one's gonna be rough. Archetype started this topic. Abi posted just before me, and Terri's post will be up maƱana.

So here's the question of the chain: Some people argue that creative people need “angst” to produce good work. Do you? What emotions drive you as a writer?

I'm gonna break this up a little. Here's the first part again. Some people argue that creative people need "angst" to produce good work. Do you?

I don' think it's so much what I feel when I'm writing as much as it's what I experience when I'm not. The angst I feel about writing comes when I'm not writing. I've written something and now I'm stuck. What comes next? How do I get Jared back to Montana? What will Vi do now that Jag has said those three little words? Can she say them back? How can Hunter defeat his enemies? Oh, and how's he gonna get out of that bank alive?

That's my angst. When I'm writing, I'm fine. It's when I paint myself into a corner that I'm angsty.

Or when I have two scenes that need to connect somehow and I just can't quite figure it out. This requires much thinkage. And in my world, thinkage = angst. My angst-thought areas are: the shower (maybe TMI? Tighten your seat belt...), driving in the car, and as I'm waiting to fall asleep. That's when I have time to devote to "angsting" about my writing.

But I never angst during the actual writing.

So on to part two: What emotions drive you as a writer?

I need to be able to place myself directly in a situation. I think some people can do this better than others. I have been known to bite every fingernail I own while reading a book or watching movies. Things are just so real to me.

When I was younger, an episode of "The Facts of Life" scared me to death. I can still see it in my mind. (I looked for it on youtube, but even I do not have unlimited time. Have you seen how many episodes of TFOL there are? Sheesh.) Ever since then, I absolutely cannot sleep without being able to see the door. Or without any coverings, no matter how hot it is. This is completely illogical of course, since I'm practically blind and can't see at night anyway. But I can imagine the situation and place myself directly in it. I could write it if I needed to.

I refuse to watch movies like The Ring, news programs that talk about serial killers, or anything else remotely scary. After watching a 20/20 program on the BTK killer, I made my eight-year-old son check the closets if the doors had mysteriously closed. Seriously. I think everything I see or read could happen to me. And that's scary.

When we moved into our house several years ago, one of the first things I did was plan where I would hide if someone tried to break in. (In my defense, we were one of the first families to move into our development and there were construction crews everywhere. And no one nearby for help.) I have this way overactive imagination that conjures up the worst thing that could happen and then I decide what I would do in that situation.

I once watched a TV show like CSI or some crime show like that. This murderer guy was hiding out in the ceilings of his victims. Then he would call them on the phone and say things to them that portrayed that he could see them. It freaked me out. I refused to sleep in rooms where anyone would be able to crawl into the ceiling to murder me. Luckily, at the time, we lived in an apartment building on the bottom floor. When we went out of town, I insisted we sleep in the basement. No, I'm not kidding.

This kind of fear--the ability to place myself in any situation--is what I think helps me write. I experience it right along with my characters as I put them in horrible situations. I'm able to make up ways for them to get out of their scary situations, because yanno, I've done that in my real life. kenyit

Some of my favorite books are the Harry Potter's. But I absolutely hate number 5, The Order of the Phoenix. Don't get me wrong, I've read it several times and watch the movie quite a bit too. The reason I don't like it? It's filled from page one to whatever with injustice. It just makes me so mad. I use injustice to inspire anger in my writing as well. I think everyone feels like they've been wronged at some point in their life, and they can identify to an injustice and the anger that comes from it.

So I use terror, injustice and blind rage to drive my writing. Freak, I might need to schedule a therapy session for my angst issues. adacall I toldja to hold on tight.

Don't forget, Terri is up tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Elana...I am right there with you. I totally experience the feelings my characters are having, the ones I am reading about. That is the best part of reading to me -- when a writer can make me feel like I am right there and a part of the story.

Great post!


Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, I know exactly where you are coming from - I have the exact same problem with getting freaked out after watching scary things! And I am now officially also freaked out by the idea of a murderer potentially hiding in ceilings.

Anonymous said...

Kate, that was the point... ;) Just kidding, sorry about your new angst about ceiling-murderers! Really, I am.

Sandra said...

Which TFOL episode are you referring to?

One thing I've noticed is that since I've become a mother, I get more angsty about news reports of hurt/missing/dead kids. I think that goes along with what you're saying about placing yourself in a situation.

celticqueen said...

Yeah, I had watched that episode...and blocked it...and now it's unblocked...thanks Elana ;) I swear we were separated at birth. I can't even watch Ghostbusters at night because I freak myself out. And I am having a hard time writing at night now because my computer is now in the basement of our new house...and it's really quiet and I'm all alone down here at night...I scairt!

I love how your angst comes when you are writing. So true - it's hard when you write yourself into a corner. The only thing I can do is leave it for a few days. Something usually comes to me as I'm doing the dishes or in the shower. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure which TFOL episode, Sandra. I know it's Blair and her hair is all ratted out and she has a knife and she's in the bedroom about to stab one of the other girls. I think it's a dream one of them (or Blair) is having.

Michelle, which episode? TFOL? 20/20? The weird ceiling murderer? I watch allotta TV... :)

Jennifer said...

I have angst over everything, so I'm sure it's a factor in my writing. :D

I totally put myself in the characters' shoes, like you were talking about. To me, that's the whole point of watching TV and reading books in the first place.

My husband and I were watching a show the other day where a guy has a computer chip in his brain that makes him into two people. (When one's asleep, the other is awake, and the second one doesn't even know about the first guy). Anyway, a malfunction happened and guy #1 was awake when guy #2 was supposed to be awake, and he started doing the horizontal mambo with guy #2's wife. This happened on a number of occasions, and it drove me absolutely crazy. I almost couldn't watch it anymore. My dear significant other was laughing at me. He's such a guy. All he watches TV for is awesome special effects and fighting and time travel. :)

But to me, I could totally feel what Guy #2 was feeling every time he found out what had happened and it killed me. I get angsty like that. He broke his own pinkie to get back at Guy #1, which obviously backfired because the next time he woke up, his pinkie was broken. ;) But I could totally understand where he was coming from. Oh, the frustration of being absolutely unable to stop that from happening!

Sorry, you can tell I'm still angsting over it as we speak. I'll try to take some deep breaths and let it go. :)

H. L. Dyer said...

Wow! You DO have some angst, babe! *snort*

All the better to create your awesomeness! :)

Archetype said...

Do not EVER watch The Ring. Just trust me on that. It's freaky, and I'm actually hard to freak out, because I enjoy the intense emotions. (And I think most horror movies are just silly.) Oh, and DEFINITELY don't watch House of Wax. The remake, anyhow. The only movie I ever had to stop watching because it freaked me out so much. For days I had like PTSD from it. I need to stop thinking about it right now. Eek. Ew. *shudder*

SO. I really enjoyed your discussion on the emotions that drive your writing. I felt it all right along with you!

(And PS -- I have major angst when I get stuck on something in my novel, too. Usually on a good end. I always feel painted into a corner with noplace to go at the end...)

ali said...

That's a great question your chain has goin'. I enjoyed your answer too.

I have angst when I'm not writing too ... mainly because I feel like my chi is blocked or something if I'm not keeping the writing flowing, kwim?

Emotions? I dunno. I feel what my characters feel. Sometimes I have a hard time feeling in my RL, but I can feel like the dickens when I'm writing. I've been known to cry, to scream out loud in anger all in response to the emotions that are dredged up while writing.

TerriRainer said...


I know I shouldn't laugh at your paranoia, but I can't help it. I've often said that ghosts/paranormal don't scare me, but REAL people do. I think you could probably relate easily.

:) Terri

Mary Lindsey said...

I think it is neat you know your emotional limits and don't subject yourself to things you know will let bad vibes in.

Thanks for letting us peek inside Elana the writer.

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