This might hurt a little. But, maybe it doesn't have to.

Written by Cole Schafer




 I believe it was Hemingway that wrote that there's nothing to writing, that all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

For whatever reason, pain and sadness for a writer function in much the same way as Nitrous Oxide for the souped-up 1986 Toyota Supra.

It gives the scribbler added oomph, punch and zest to allow him to write with reckless abandon.

There's something fun about watching these misery-fueled writers: the Hunter S. Thompsons and the Sylvia Plaths of the world.

But, what nobody likes to talk about is that while these writers, fueled by pain, sadness and untreated mental illness can write their asses off, this fuel eventually has a way of imploding into an inferno that costs them their lives.

Sylvia Plath gave us The Bell Jar.

Sylvia also stuck her head in an oven, fell asleep and never woke back up again.

Hunter S. Thompson gave us Gonzo Journalism.

Hunter also shot himself in the head after writing a piece the following…

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt."

The danger in pain for the writer is when he gets so enamored with the art the pain is allowing him to create, that he loses himself in it, that the pain no longer becomes a source of inspiration he can access in small glimpses but his identity.

He is no longer a human that has felt pain and will surely feel more pain. No. He is pain.

Some of the best writing I've ever done happened between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-seven.

Over this four-year period, I put out three books of poetry and prose: One Minute, Please?, After Her and Quarantine Dreams...

I created and launched a handful of products and courses, with Snow Cones and $100k being my heaviest hitters...

I wrote nearly a thousand articles and newsletters...

And, I collaborated with countless brands in spaces ranging from data science to children's toys to diamonds to SaaS to baked goods.

While I didn't know it at the time, I’ve struggled with a lot of sadness these past few years and I think it was this sadness that fueled my prolific frequency.

No. The sadness I experienced (and I still experience to some degree) was never "stick your head in an oven" sadness. But, it was very real and it was ever-present and, at times, it felt impossible to outrun.

The other day, however, I woke up and had this thought…

"It's been a good while since I've been deeply sad."

Sure, I've been sad in moments.

But, it's been some time since I've had a handful of days at a time where I hurt and I couldn't point to where.

And as I write this, as I share this thought, I'd be lying if I said there isn't a part of me that isn't concerned that without this sadness I'll lose my edge.

There is a reason why great art is created in the midst of sadness –– when you're sad, the only activity that sounds remotely satisfying (or at the very least bearable) is sitting down and getting all of the hurt out of your body and onto the page.

For creatives –– particularly writers –– I do think there is a subconscious fear of getting better mentally and emotionally because while you may be less miserable, you might lose this edge.

Because of this, writers can be wildly self-destructive –– sniffing out bridges in their lives they can blow up in hopes that the explosions and black smoke can be used to fuel their material.

I can feel myself fighting this temptation; self-destructing because it all seems too good to be true... because happiness doesn't feel like something I deserve... because happiness could cost me my edge.

One of my favorite lines of all time was by the late, great Nora Ephron who wrote... "Everything is copy."

I have a similar mantra inspired by her... "It's all material."

It's a freeing thought, really –– this idea that the good, the bad and the ugly that happens to us can be repurposed into art.

However, what happens when a writer is only accessing a third of the pie –– the good –– what happens then?

Do they start writing children's books?


But, they also blow shit up.

As strange as it may sound, I do think we all must eventually ask ourselves how much of our life, love and happiness we are willing to sacrifice in order to make good art.

How much are we willing to bleed?

As I've gotten older, I find myself wrestling with this question:

Would I prefer to be good in my craft and happy or great in my craft and miserable?

And while some might argue the two aren't mutually exclusive... pray to tell me why all the great writers seem to eventually eat lead for dinner?

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.