“Like Lab Dogs on Whom Very Personal Deodorant Sprays Have Been Tested”

Each day this week I’m going to post a quote from a book on writing and then a few questions. If you have any thoughts regarding the quote or the questions, leave them in the comments. On Saturday I’ll highlight some of my favorite responses made throughout the week.

“My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.” Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird

Is this just a stereotype, or are artists generally melancholy, dissatisfied people? If so, why?

14 Replies to ““Like Lab Dogs on Whom Very Personal Deodorant Sprays Have Been Tested””

  1. I think many artists wrestle with deep emotions which they channel through their own medium. Most people are not comfortable with that level of emotion.

  2. I would lean towards thinking that writers, just like any other group of people, are a mixed group. Some are optimists, some pessimists and some idealists.

    Writers and non-writers range from angry to surprised to confused to content … sometimes all on the same day.

  3. I think there’s something about pulling out your pain and staring it in the face that can make people melancholy, or at least seem melancholy. A lot of people don’t look at their pain directly but deal with in other ways.

    That said, I want to agree with Janet – and I do to some extent – but I do see a lot of angst among artists, myself included I guess.

  4. Perhaps artists are never quite sure that the happy world others seem to be experiencing is actually what it appears to be. There is always something underneath the surface lying in wait for them.

  5. While there are a variety of reasons that spur individuals toward the creative process, I think that history shows the best and/or most creative have survived through a degree of adversity. That weathering results in a variety of creative drivers that range from neurosis to divine gratitude.

  6. Writers are humans first, writers second. All humans struggle at times in life and try to find meaning and a way to process or cope with that. Art is one way of coping/processing/making meaning out of one’s experience. Making sense of pain is more needed by the individual than making sense of happiness.

    ART = personal expression of the individual/collective unconscious and conscious.

  7. Anne Lamott ONLY writes the truth, my friend. Ha! :)

    Below is an excerpt on the subject from my book, which my agent is currently shopping. I have OCD, and it most definitely factors into my writing and how I think about this most ponderous profession! ;)

    “Writing is a bipolar business. One minute, I love what I have written. The next, I am not fit to write my own name. One minute I feel superhuman – the next, subhuman. Writing is like that. But again, my OCD benefits me. OCD sufferers learn early on that feelings are not necessarily facts. That is, just because I feel like a failure does not mean I am a failure. The feelings of fear that scorch the psyches of OCD sufferers do not often have much bearing on reality. Therapy taught me to let these feelings exist and continue about my business as if they have no currency. The application to writing is easy: I do my best not to believe the feelings of inadequacy that arise whenever my writing feels particularly constipated. Conversely, I also do my best to guard against an overinflated ego. I must dismiss those moments of asinine arrogance that come when I feel absolutely brilliant, realizing that overinflated egos, like overinflated balloons, pop all too easily.”

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