Do I need to be miserable to write?

I haven’t been writing that much lately. Snatches of poetry here and there, half-finished pieces crowding the notes app on my phone. It’s not exactly writer’s block. It’s something else: happiness.

I’m about to get real corny for a moment, so if you’re bitter/don’t like joy/are disgusted by sincerity, please skip to the next paragraph. With me being the person that I am + living with a mental illness means that the concept of consistent happiness felt really difficult. For as long as I could remember, I was deeply anxious over something or the other, grades, exams, the LSAT, my body etc., etc. Every time I felt like I was comfortably treading water, a wave would wash over me.  But since I moved to DC, a combination of therapy, personal growth, a job I love and wonderful friends have contributed to a sense of, dare I say, contentment, that feels unprecedented. At least, post-puberty. Finally, I’ve reached the shore.

But there’s one thing I miss about being lost at sea. Writing. All my life, my best work (if I do say so myself) has come from a place of fear, sorrow, heartbreak. The notebooks in my childhood bedroom, this blog, the Moleskines I keep buying as an adult and losing are filled with scraps of unhappiness, a patchy portrait of a lost girl. I don’t want to be the cliche of a tortured artist, only able to put things together when I’m falling apart. But I still haven’t figured out how to write from place where I know who I am and I make no apologies for it.

Maybe because I don’t see it as being interesting. Like the Tolstoy quote about happy families, isn’t my sadness more interesting? Isn’t happiness trite? Especially in a world where we pay professionals, download meditation apps, and read wellness blogs in the pursuit of mental wellbeing. Maybe I’m more interested in the questioning of my identity than actually coming to terms with it. Maybe I’m worried that a woman wondering is always more palatable than a woman who knows.

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