"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life"- JK Rowling.
I consider myself to be a writer: I write music, lyrics, novels and articles. Hence why I believe myself to be a creative person, which comes with it's amazing ups and frustrating downs. Often, inspiration needs to be spurred, and so I often turn to successful writers to learn from them and their experiences, in order to focus and enlighten my own.
There was a continually repeated theme I kept noticing amongst those successful, creative beings, and it was the fact that some of their best work came from a time when their life was, in their view, seemingly at its lowest- it appeared to give them the ability to shut out all distractions and focus on making a piece of work that transcended just writing words on a page.
JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, is by far, one of the best examples of this. I watched quite a few interviews with the infamous writer, who really epitomises a true 'rag to riches' story. For those who do not know, whilst Rowling began to write the first Harry Potter novel, she was an unemployed, single parent in England in a situation she describes in her Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008, as "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless." What she said next is what struck a chord with me. She highlighted the importance of these low points and failures, saying, "failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded in anything else I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena that I believed I truly belonged. I was set free."
"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life" summed up her entire argument, and now, mine as well. It seemed to be this struggle that made the escapism of writing all so much more important, and this struggle appears to give the writer's creation more passion. For example, Rowling explains that she always intended to have the books begin with Harry Potter's parents murdered, but she did not dwell on this, making their deaths fairly shallow at the first draft. However, she admits that the loss of her mother to the disease Multiple Sclerosis, six months in to writing the first book, made the death of Harry Potter's parents more real to her, and it was that deeper meaning in death that seemed to make the loss of his parents far more emotional to the reader through her 'emotionally charged' writing.
Another example that further illustrates this is the writer, Stephan Elliott, who, when I met him earlier this year, said that he wrote the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert during a brush with the law. He said that it was at this point in his life where "he has nothing else to loose" which freed him to really go for gold. In 2004, Elliot was also involved in a skiing accident, and was hospitalised for quite a few months; he accredits this experience with rediscovering his sense of humour, which reflected in several of his works past this date.
This is not at all to say that a good writer needs to experience a traumatising event in order to be successful, but I found it interesting that these two examples (and many more) give light to the possibility that, writing as a method of escapism could possibly be more potent if the author is actually trying to escape from a bad experience in their life.
Unfortunately, as Rowling noted, this rock bottom period of life is far from pleasant, and no one should ever relish in it or romanticise it in any way, which is definitely not my aim with this article. It is simply to highlight the old saying of "Write what you know"; experiences in a writer's life can often 'hit home' with their emotions as they write, triggering a greater foundation of passionate flare and creativity, providing the reader with a more in-depth experience, which they certainly notice as they become absorbed in the content. This, in turn, increases the reader's satisfaction in the story, as the reader becomes favourably lost in this pit of vented emotions intertwined in a plot, as opposed to a shallow tale.