It’s common knowledge that the stinging jolt of painful experience can be spun into gold by the great writers. (And let’s be honest here—a mediocre writer is possible of creating greatness with the right material.) But there’s a catch to that truism.
Edith Wharton, who was born on this day in 1862, pointed it out in her book The Writing of Fiction:
As to experience, intellectual and moral, the creative imagination can make a little go a long way, provided it remains long enough in the mind and is sufficiently brooded upon. One good heart-break will furnish the poet with many songs and the novelist with a considerable number of novels. But they must have hearts that can break.
(h/t: Roxane Gay)