May 5, 2014
An established poet once told me that art was his way of getting even with the world. A woman who’d dumped him was immortalized by a verse of his that ended with the line: ” I never liked you lasagne, it was always too dry.” The poem is interestingly layered as on one hand it criticizes his ex, on the other, it sends up his own love sickness.
Using art to score a personal goal is a negative approach, nonetheless, it does make me think about why I write. There is something godlike about creating a world where you decide the destinies of each character within. A lot of writers admit to liking this level of control, however imaginary. Bad writers are notorious for having a ‘Mary Sue protagonist’ (an idealized version of themselves) who is set upon by nasty characters who bear resemblance to real people whom the writer dislikes. However, such writing is usually very bad – and more often than not, immature.
It is better, and more interesting (and perhaps more therapeutic) to conjure more rounded characters. You may choose to write about something that happened to you, but try to do so from the point of view (and a sympathetic one) of your nemesis in the situation. You’ll be surprised at what comes up and how your world view may even change as a result. Or, as in the the case of my poet friend’s lasagne poem, turn your story so your art is also gently chiding yourself for your own love-sickness, anger, jealousy, disappointment, greed etc…I feel that art used as a weapon in a personal vendetta will only ever be cheese. Cheesey lasgane, in fact.
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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August 29th, 2012 at 22:06
Passion does it for me every time. Sometimes you read something and you can tell that the author is so passionate about the subject, it just rubs off on you. 😉
May 5th, 2014 at 23:16
I agree that art used as a weapon can’t have a good ending. I struggled the odd time I was tempted to write adversely about someone I was upset with. I’m glad I didn’t go on with it. And yes, it would have been “cheesy”.