Why We Still Write When We Seem Unhappy & Georges Simenon: Day 19 of Project 365

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.- Georges Simenon

Georges Simenon, 1953

Georges Simenon: Belgian author who wrote over 200 novels, 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, and more.

Ever hear a concerned friend or relative ask you:

“Why do you keep writing? It makes you so unhappy.”

I’ve been asked this a few times, and I’m never quite sure how to answer it. I usually just rely on the response, “I can’t help myself.” A decidedly vague statement.

The question is hard to respond to because, in truth, writing doesn’t make me unhappy at all. It is a conduit through which my greatest passions flow. And my passions include both highs and lows. Perhaps the lows are simply more memorable (although I do jump off the couch with happiness if I feel successful in my writing).

Simenon, one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century, was a very successful and determined author, contrary to what the quote might lead you to believe. One source says that Simenon was able to write 60 to 80 pages a day, if he wished.

In one day. That’s 15,000 – 20,000 words in one day. That’s almost half of NaNoWriMo‘s listed goals for its participants for an entire month of writing.

If a man who writes that much is the same man who declares his life’s dedication of writing a “vocation of unhappiness”, I can only wonder if he says that quote out of sincere personal truth or to placate those around him who complained of his constant seeming unhappiness.

I once heard a personal hero of mine, Connie Willis, give a speech to a room full of writers. Her answer to the question?

Because we can’t help ourselves.

In the brain, there has been a study on the difference between the neurological pathways between love and hate (Neural Correlates of Hate). They are different pathways, except for two key areas where the pathway of love and hate cross each other.

In our own relationships, we often express our most extremes of anger and hate towards the people we love the most.

It only makes sense that the same pattern would appear in any person who loved writing, and hated writing, and wanted to do nothing but write.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with writing? Or anything else?

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2 thoughts on “Why We Still Write When We Seem Unhappy & Georges Simenon: Day 19 of Project 365

  1. Hi Valerie & thanks for the link. My favourite author, Yukio Mishima, was also highly prolific (in a relatively short lifetime) but Simenon’s 15 – 20,000 words a day seems nothing short of superhuman…!

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