To Embrace Anger as a Creative Fuel

For a long time I have considered myself logical. I have made decisions by applying the rudimentary principals of chess. I am a “snappy” decision maker; I weigh the options, root out the logical outcomes, and make a decision. I rarely, if ever, look back unless it involves larger sums of my own personal income.

Have you ever been asked what you’re “passionate” about?

Do you have an answer other than your significant other? I sat thinking about the question and thinking about an exercise that my wife had shared with me some weeks ago. Supposedly, if you continue to write the question: “What is my purpose?” and then follow it with an answer, over and over, you will eventually come to a solution that will really pull your heart chords and make sense to you. I tried this for approximately two hours and was not moved by anything I wrote. I wondered if it is possible that I simply have no purpose? Care for a side of Nihilism, anyone?

I remember being very passionate as a youth. I suffered from the belief that I knew everything, as many teenagers will tell you they do. I was angry too. I vented my anger into my writing and wrote some of the best things I have ever written during this time period. At no point do I look back at my teenage years and say, “That was a great example of logic!” I was fueled by fury, love, passion, dispassion, chaos and disorder. My words were on fire. What happened?

Did I simply grow up? Did something different happen, did I make a choice to abandon the burden of my excess of emotions in place of logic? If so, why? Before I get to that question, let me explain where all this came from.

I signed up for a class with the Writers’ Center of Indiana. I mentioned it in my previous post. The instructor is Dan Wakefield, author of “Going All The Way,” and a genuinely great guy. He’s a phenomenal presenter and has an excellent approach to garnering memories from your past to help with memoir writing. The class is about writing about yourself or finding your inner thoughts, experiences and emotions to fuel your writing. While everyone else was busy writing about some beautiful, charming reminiscence of their childhood,  I was busy remembering details of troubling events from my past. While remembering these troubling events, the book I am reading at home has been “To Each Their Own Darkness” by Gary A. Braunbeck on the craft of writing. Fitting, eh?

Don’t worry; this isn’t where I regurgitate the details of my past. I would say without a doubt that I am thankful that my life went as well as it did. I’ve heard stories of far worse cataclysms than my life. I had it pretty good, save for a few glitches.  We all had glitches; even the people you believe to be perfect.

The stories I wrote in class were dark and yet moving. My classmates were awed by the words and responded with great appreciation for my sharing them. However, they all had that unmistakably troubled look in their eyes. Why is this well-mannered and even-tempered guy so dark?

It troubled me to the point that I did not attend yesterday’s class. I believe that I have become afraid of dredging up darker memories by which to disturb the older denizens of my classroom. I am not worried about those classmates so much as I worry about myself. I remember a much darker version of me. I was once completely imbued with anger. This anger also fueled my writing. We’ve all had bad relationships in our lives, be they with parents, lovers, friends or foes. I generated story after story, poem after poem, some dripping with hatred and spite, some oozing with love and passion and yet some more that proved thoughtful interest in something bigger than myself. It was a destructive and powerfully creative phase of my life. I believe that I saw the danger of continuing to behave as I was and decided to control it. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that this occurred. It took some alone time to put together a box strong enough to hold everything. I think that at some point I stuffed what I could into a heart-shaped box, chained it, locked it and heaved it into the ocean hoping that it would find solace next to the Titanic.

I had embraced logic in lieu of passion, anger and powerful writing.  I wrote my best stuff back then. Now suddenly, all at once, thanks to Dan Wakefield and Gary Braunbeck, I feel some sense of creativity awakening. But I need to know; am I capable of regaining my voice from the depths without returning to the anger that I locked it away with?

There’s only one thing that I know how to do well and I’ve often been told that you only can do what you know how to do well, and that’s be you, be what you’re like, be like yourself, and so I’m having a wonderful time but I’d rather be whistling in the dark. ~ They Might Be Giants – Whistling in the Dark

I believe that we are all, in some ways, untrue to ourselves. We change for what we think is the better, given our situations. How fair are you being to yourself if you change for the world? I might sound a little preachy here but shouldn’t people be expected to love you for you, as opposed to love you for who you pretend to be?

Who are you?
Who do you pretend to be?
What are you really passionate about?

I would love to hear from you.


  1. Jonathan Chen

    Hi Don,

    This is such a small little space, I’m not sure if this kind of reply is appropriate for just a comment haha..

    I’m a 20-year old aspiring something, that went on an internet hunt for controlling anger, and found your blog, and found myself reading about myself and my anger-ful youth… I’d really love to read a little bit more about how you’d psychologically describe your process of “embracing logic”, from your techniques, to how often “relapse” happen/happened, rationales, epiphanies… you’re probably as busy as they come, so really I’d appreciate any feedback at all.

    I’m a 20-year old aspiring something, who claims to want to do something to help people with his life.

    Who I pretend to be is a difficult question for me; on an episode of House, Dr. Wilson says at one point something to the effect of, “If someone spends all of their time creating a ‘persona’, isn’t that as much who they are as anything else?” I buy into that a lot, because naturally, I guess I tend toward being very un-proactive and lazy, not trying new things, and avoiding tough questions. But consciously, I am completely averse to these things because the people I respect most are all do-ers and experience-ers, so I consciously strive to subvert these tendencies… so what does that say about who I am vs. what I’m “pretending”?

    I’m passionate about independence. I’ve had the fortune of being able to take a philosophy class at Brown, whose topics largely concerned free will, determinism, and moral absolutism, and that can only push one to think an exorbitant amount. It’s somehow led me to side with the power of choice, to believe that no matter what our impulses may be, if we are confronted with the urge to say one thing, there is no reason we cannot say another. I believe in the power of the human spirit, and I want to help those who are in bondage by their own thoughts to feel empowered.

    I hope this all fits in one comment, and I hope this is what you were expecting when you said “I would love to hear from you”…


    1. Post
      Don Sedberry

      Hi Jon,

      First of all, thank you for reading my blog. I hope that you have found some solace and value in knowing there are others out there like you. Regardless of length of a comment there’s always some personal satisfaction to know someone read what you wrote and truly took it in.

      Embracing logic was a gradual change. It helped that logic was so intertwined with technology, chess, and my various other interests that it almost felt a natural decision. Take for example, on your Tumblr, you’re working through a poetry challenge. Structured poetry is rigid, unbending, and purposeful. Your words and syllabic cadence are dictated by rules. You are forced to embrace the logic of the rules for the type of poem you are being asked to create. You accept the challenge of the rules instead of becoming angry with them.

      How this came about for me? It’s interesting and timely that you ask this. I keep a mental To Don’t list. I’m in the process of generating a post about why everyone needs a To Don’t list. It isn’t easy and I do rise to anger from time to time(relapse). However, I am never angry for very long. In my mind, I have established a series of things I refer to as “Chess Moves” in my brain. I work through things very quickly. For me, it works kind of like this. If I do this, then what is the likely outcome? I think everyone can handle this kind of logic. When I’m angry, it’s likely because I don’t like the outcome or likely end-game. I love the puzzle of trying to figure out the best “next move” and what will actually cause the scenario to work out in my favor. This isn’t to say be selfish, I prefer my scenarios benefit everyone.

      Now back to you, you say that you want to do something help people. I respond, well then do so. What did you wish you had more of in your life? Find a way to supply that need to the world. That sense of fulfillment will abate the fires of anger. My blog is the beginning of my attempt to do the same. I wanted someone to tell me that how I felt was normal. I wanted that experience of community and I firmly believe that if I manage to help one person then I have done what I set out to do.

      Who you pretend to be? I love your House reference. You’re right; if you’ve generated this persona then that is who you are. However, the question is not what your persona defines you as it’s more a question of whether or not that persona is adequately fulfilling you. Are you truly lazy, unproductive, and unadventurous? I would say just from reading 3-4 pages of your blog that you are not those things, at least not within your writing.

      We are the sum of our experiences. I found myself in love with the musical Rent at one point. If for nothing else than these lyrics: “The heart may freeze or it can burn, the pain will ease if I can learn, there is no future, there is no past, thank God this moment’s not the last. There’s only us, there’s only this, forget regret or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way, no day but today.” For some reason, these words stuck with me and transformed me into more of a do-er and an experience-er. How else will you get good material for writing if that’s what is important to you? How else will you help people if not for experiencing the ways in which you can do something to help them?

      Philosophy can be an excellent jump-start to the mind. It’s great to open your mind to the differences in the way people think. However, my chief complaint about philosophy is that it is more prone to idle thought and less prone to genuine action. You always have the power of choice. This goes back to my comments about embracing logic in general. Your choices can generate repercussions or rewards down the line. If you choose to place yourself in a position to have good things happen, then you have increased the chance that they will.

      The example I often use is applying for a job. If you never apply for a new/better job, your probability (logic) of finding fulfillment in your job is almost zero. Life to me has always been and will always be a chess match. You have to find the moves to create the outcome you want in the end. Sometimes, the moves however small will position you for better things. For example, using the job/networking idea again, so you don’t get the job but you make an impression on person doing the hiring you’ve now made it onto their radar. However, this really applies to anything and I hope it helps better explain how I use logic to control the anger a bit.

      You thought your comment was long. 😉

      I can be reached at if you have any additional questions. I’m happy to continue the discourse.


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