CareerCurrent IssueSpring 2011The Flourishing Writer

Ebb and Flow

By Carol Coven Grannick

In Dennis Palumbo’s classic book on the emotional life of the writer, Writing From the Inside Out, the writer/psychologist suggests that the ebb and flow of positive and negative emotions in the writer’s journey is normal. This is perhaps the most important “take-away” not only from Palumbo’s work, but from any journey of self-exploration and personal growth. That is, without self-acceptance of the normal joy and pain of life, we continue to torture ourselves about feelings, rather than simply accept them as natural reactions.

That awareness goes a long way toward keeping feelings transient. The problem is that it’s hard for us to really buy that because the downs feel rotten and we start wishing them away. But when we do, the feelings tend to tie themselves in knots and added layers of untrue self-deprecatory language and feelings pile on. So it’s our fear and hate of “negative” emotions that gets us in trouble and stifles our brain’s capacities—and writing.

I’ve been musing about this ebb and flow of the writing life, even as I ebb and flow. Internal and external experiences have intertwined this past year to make me ponder the cycle of life and feel perplexed about the field of publishing. Although I know that I can only control certain things, the uncertainty that accompanies the creative journey can shake me to the core. In addition, life losses and transitions have made my moods less buoyant, and my energy less social, than I’d like. Not all the time, but enough that it’s noticeable. Yet I’m cautious about wishing these moods away. I think it’s my attitude, not life, that needs tweaking. So I’m working harder at talking to myself and benefiting from my writing partners’ and life partner’s reminders and support. And I’ve been more productive with my writing than ever. I know I’m not alone. This year there were many voices, including beautiful posts by Francisco X. Stork ( and Sara Zarr’s powerful and comforting SCBWI final-day keynote ( that spoke to so many of us who have worked for so long without the complete results we wish for.

Don’t get me wrong—I love feeling upbeat and joyful. I’m feisty and eternally hopeful. But I have no need to feel wonderful every moment of my life. I want to allow, and even welcome, the ebb and flow of emotions along with the ebb and flow of events. I keep the basic attitude that life has great meaning, and that the broad and deep range of human emotion feeds my creative life in a way that nourishes my writing and my soul.

Carol Coven Grannick is a writer and licensed clinical social worker in private practice, supporting writers through the vicissitudes of the creative journey. She writes picture books and middle grade fiction and can be reached at:

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