I have a little quote here from an interview with the writer Georges Simenon (from The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. III) that I wanted to share, as I thought it would be interesting to see how different writers react to it. Here goes...
Simenon: Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. I don't think an artist can ever be happy.
Simenon: Because, first, I think that if a man has the urge to be an artist, it is because he needs to find himself. Every writer tries to find himself through his characters, through all his writing.
I thought this was very intriguing, though I don't necessarily agree with all of it. I see no reason why an artist can't be happy. Even if there is something necessarily unhappy about the pursuit of art (and I'm not sure there is), there is more to the artist than that pursuit alone. Art is merely one aspect of life, or perhaps an interpretation of it. But even for the happy artists... is writing a profession, and do you think we'd be better off without it? Intriguing. Is our art really that risky, really that damaging?
The part that really caught me, however, was that last bit, the idea that the artist is searching for himself in his art. A writer, in putting down words and stories, is seeking to find himself, to locate, perhaps, his own thoughts and sense of self. I think there's something to this, at least for some writers (me being one of them). I think I'm an explorative writer, both in seeking outward, in exploring something I don't know... and in exploring inward.
My most recent novel is about a kidnapping, a woman held for ransom in a makeshift cell. Part of this is outward exploration, a result of a (perhaps somewhat morbid) curiosity, a desire to know what others who have been imprisoned have gone through. And yet much of it is a very personal exploration, too, looking not only abstractly at imprisonment but personally, peeling apart my own thoughts, feelings and fears of imprisonment, my own claustrophobia, my own capacity for choice and action.
So, thoughts and reactions? What's up with writers and happiness? The artistic impulse? Self-revelation?