When Life gets in the way


Persevering against the odds

 Much as we would like to write in a vacuum, protected from the hardships of the outside world, few of us have this luxury. Many writers struggle with health issues, grief, anxiety and family troubles. It’s hard to be creative when it takes all our energy just to cope. Yet, if we can find a way, suffering can hone and ennoble our words, triggering powerful reactions and empathy in others.

 Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning struggled with ill health most of her life. In 1838 a pre-existing illness worsened and she moved house so she could to try to recover by the sea. Her favourite brother Edward stayed with her, but tragically drowned two years later. This shock worsened Elizabeth’s poor health. For the next five years she remained in her room and saw no one except her family and a few close friends. Her illness led her to feel ‘completely dead to hope of any kind.’ Yet despite this she continued to write.

In 1844, the publication of a book of poetry, simply entitled Poems, secured her fame. Somehow, she managed to channel her grief and pain into producing memorable and successful poetry that is still read and enjoyed today.

So, when life gets in the way, as it so often does, perhaps we should try to keep writing. Novels are time consuming and draining, but writing poetry can be cathartic and successful. It certainly helped Elizabeth Barrett Browning.