by Zoe Karakikla-Mitsakou
Zoe is a friend and fellow writer, and I dig her vibe a lot. This is her piece about the writing process; with aspects that are therapeutic as well as haunting. – ML
Writing has always been a cathartic process for me. I always loved to write, but could never find the motivation to reach for the pen or keyboard unless I had reached “the danger zone”. In the pits of despair, right before (or sometimes shortly after) a small breakdown or personal tragedy I would lock myself in my office and write.
Fiction or nonfiction, my writing was like an extension of the psychotherapist’s couch. What better way to let some of the darkness out than to turn despair and agony into creativity? Sublimation, the channeling of our most primal impulses, our darkest corners into something positive and socially acceptable is one of the most common defense mechanisms in our arsenal. Punching someone that really deserves it in real life isn’t socially acceptable? Perhaps a story about a girl who murders her flat mate would be a more productive way to unleash some of the underlying rage. It sounds logical enough.
Imagine my dismay when a few months ago, I found myself for the first time in a good few years feeling…happy. I was in a satisfying relationship, my health was stable, my friends and family were well, and work was going ok. I spent a month staring at the keyboard, too afraid to type. I had bumped into one of the, many, myths associated with the ‘creative professions’. To be creative you need to be dark. To be dark you need a degree of personal dysfunction, of decadence, of addiction. It’s all very mystical, very esoteric and simply untrue. Tragedy, personal instability, dysfunction are not necessary elements of creativity. All myths, however, have an element of truth. The artistic temperament has long been linked to mental disorders, like manic depression. Many artists have led almost haunted lives. Equally as many sculptors, musicians and writers have led lives untouched by horrors and madness.
We are inherently creative beings. Is being a writer a creative profession? Most of the time, it is. More than anything else, writing is a job. We spend endless hours practicing, focusing our creativity, sharpening the tools and skills we need to write. We are dedicated, patient, and perhaps a little ambitious. We practice every single day and are comfortable with the sometimes-chthonic nature of our imagination.
Whatever we do with our creative urges, however dark our characters may be, when a day’s work is done we return to the world and are sometimes functional and sometimes happy, like everyone else. The monsters we create will lie in wait until the next time we reach for the pen or keyboard and summon them into our lives.
About Zoe: Zoe Karakikla-Mitsakou has only recently started writing. Her fiction and nonfiction pieces have been published by various magazines and anthologies. In her free time she enjoys thinking of new ways to destroy computers using just coffee.