Struggling Artists and Pain

There are a lot of people out there who think that you have to suffer in order to create real art. For a long time I thought so myself. I think there’s something about the definition of the artist… a misunderstood individual with a reckless behavior, prone to addictions and depression, all that stuff. And there are numerous examples of writers, painters, singers, whose lives were terrible.

In a way, it’s somehow true. You know, you can’t fully understand love unless you get your heart broken, you can’t write about all that’s terrible and sad and greedy and painful in human nature until you experience it. Or at least observe it. But is there a certain amount of pain required before one becomes a “true” artist? Can pain be measured? Not physical pain (that one can be measured), but that pain that you can’t locate anywhere on your body.

I think it all comes down to how much life changes us, how we react and learn from our mistakes and experiences. I also believe that pain or suffering aren’t required to become a writer. You don’t have to be starving in order to write the next Great American Novel. You need the right message to transmit and the right tools to make people understand it.

Like I said, for a long time I used to think that art never comes out of happiness. I used to write in my darkest moments, when there was nothing else to do. Every time you pass a point of no return, there’s only one thing left to do. You can write about it. I used to think that you have to hit rock bottom because that way art will be the only thing you have left. You know, when you write to live, not the other way around.

But I changed my mind about all this. Well, Max Blecher changed my mind. He was a Romanian writer. He’s not even famous in our country, even though I consider him to be the most talented writer ever to be born in this country. At the age of 19 he was diagnosed with Pott’s disease, a terrible disease that confined him to bed. He spent the next 10 years of his life moving from one sanatorium to another. He corresponded with a lot of great writers, including Andre Breton, Andre Gide, and Martin Heidegger.

During his brief existence he published 2 novels. And he never got a chance to finish a third one. All of them are autobiographical and revolve around him fighting his disease. Of course, you can feel his pain, his suffering, all that. But in one of his novels he said that people think that you need to suffer in order to become an artist. But he thought that there were a lot of great writers who lived long, happy lives.

I find that ironic. I think we’re going to struggle to find someone who suffered more than this guy, yet he believed art to be more than the product of struggling people.

Art is a means of escaping oppression or fighting against it. But you don’t have to experience oppression in order to write about it, in order to make a stand. In the end, it all comes down to our own capability to understand and analyze life.

Pain doesn’t inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy.

Isn’t it true that we write about the things we had and lost not because of the pain we feel, but because we wish to recapture the moments of joy, to keep the flame alive long after our memories have turned to dust?


255 thoughts on “Struggling Artists and Pain

  1. This is what made me feel so stuck-in-the-rut…mostly because I find myself getting happier and happier day by day and wonder if I will lose the 'artist' in me…you've put it so brilliantly: "Pain doesn't inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy". When art is a celebration of a soul liberated, it feels so transforming! And we need more of that in our world today.

    Thank you. :)

  2. There are comic writers and there are those who write profound tragedies and there are even those who have written the both to greater success. The thing is, even if one doesn't have to be the most tragic person to write a tragedy or the happiest one to write comedies, one can not express if one has not experienced or at least observed; the more enriching the experience is, the more flame it brings to expression…and then of course, one needs the tool to express…the paln…but the tools devoid of experience would always be devoid of producing great writings! Graham Greene might not have produced one of the most intense romances in 'The End of the Affair' if he hadn't had experienced it! Experience brings life to the words and the tools! Every writer gives some of her/himself -at least- to what he writes.

  3. Well said. Exactly what I used to believe until recently. I thought I could not write poetry as I did in 2004-2005 when I was in major depression, but here I am, proving the opposite :)

  4. I agree with you that pain is not a prerequisite to writing. It seems to me writing requires an overwhelming desire to share what moves us most. Whether that "thing" is good, bad, ugly, beautiful, gut-wrenchingly painful. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we feel so strongly about something, care so deeply about our fellow human beings, that we are driven to share. Which you do VERY well, by the way!

  5. sorry, ( it broke the comment in the middle ) I totally agree to what you wrote a bit further too, " because we wish to recapture the moment of joy " It is a very accepted but false notion that, artists have to suffer before producing anything of value.

  6. Your final sentence reminds me of the quote, 'God gave us memories so that we can have roses in December."

    as a visual artist, i experience different moods with my art. when things are not going well in my personal life, my paintings turn muddy. i switch to pencil and they are always exceptional. when life is great, my paintings are full of color. many people say that the art smiles at them and forces them to smile.

    we tap into whatever mood is present, and that mood finds its way to the viewer, even if we try to conceal it!!!

    you are right in that we have to experience the highs and lows in order to understand and capture those moods.

    great post, as always.


  7. Yes, it is true what you write. I have read, years ago, that one must suffer to become a great writer but I believe, like you, it is mostly a misconception. All great song writers, play and screen writers, poets, and painters have not suffered from depression or bipolar disorder. Those individuals who became good in their chosen craft simply had drive, determination, passion,and vivid and creative imaginations.

  8. I used to think the best writing came out of pain as well. But then I hit rock bottom and found reconciliation and healing. Personally it seems that writing is best fueled by the passion of one who experienced pain but found the cure for the pain. When you find a cure you want to share it with everyone. Suffering is inspiring because we all experience it and therefore it allows us to not feel alone when we read about someone else who has suffered like us. But to write about peace after pain, inspires hope for those who can't see beyond the suffering.

  9. I'm not sure I agree with you regarding pain not being inspirational Cristian, I think it's a resource, like any other life experience. I agree that it's not necessary in order to be a writer; the 'suffering writer' is a stereotype, as you rightly point out (although there are plenty of writers out there who might not be the most cheerful people on the planet, e.g. Michel Houellebecq). I don't think pain makes us immune to tragedy either, in fact it might make some of us more susceptible. I suppose that's down to personality as much as anything. Your article is well-timed: I'd just tweeted Haruki Murakami's quote 'Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.' It's all about what you do with the pain. Nice article. @jasonoruairc

  10. Not sure i agree with the phrase "Pain doesn’t inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy"… i think it depends on how you channel the pain and how you deal with it. There was a discussion recently on TV about art and Pain. and Sharon Osborne pointed out that the 'Finest art has always come from the most tortured souls".. I believe pain is universal, and its the artist's experiences of pain that makes him/her able to recreate the depths of those emotions with so much precision and imagery that the reader is left enthralled and fixated on that work. That being said, i do agree with you that you don't have to experience oppression to write or produce fine art…

  11. Pain does many things beyond hardening a heart; it can create empathy & humility just to name a couple. Pain certainly makes one more calloused toward the suffering of others, but also these other developments to character. I agree whole-heartedly with your observation you must know heartbreak to truly appreciate love, and all that connotes. Finally, I'd rather not suffer, even if it is all "dukkha". Great post. :) Very provocative..

  12. I liked this post very much. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my mood swings were the impetus for my writing….pages and pages when I was manic……dark poetry when I was depressed. It was difficult to find any real discipline in my writing. And once meds leveled me out, it was hard to find motivation that did not revolve around mood. But once I separated that idea of writing from mood and suffering…..I find that my writing is better and more consistent without the constant inner drama.

  13. I don't think pain is necessary to become an artist, however, at least in my country where art and artists are devalued unless they can be commodified, I think pain/depression is a result of being born with artistic temperament in a society that's all too ready to project anything they find scary onto the idea of "artists" (gay/liberal/"commie"/atheist/blah blah blah) and deem them unstable.

    • I'd also like to add that it is a likelihood that EVERYONE in the world will experience pain, suffering,sadness etc. in their lives, whether they're an artist or not. So maybe because we already have the idea of the "suffering artist", we are already primed to look for instances of pain in an artist's life, which of course will be there, because they're human?

  14. I think writing is one (the only?) creative way to deal with some painful or seemingly insolvable situations (and i think more of dictatorships and such than of the proverbial broken heart); i think that kind of writing is big when it manages to transform the chaos into something meaningful; other than that – myself, i prefer stuff that was inspired elsewhere – during mystical experiences, or something else *unusual* ;)

  15. Perhaps it is not that one must suffer to create art, but that creating art leaves us with a heightened capacity to feel, thus at times we suffer. I've never been so emotionally vulnerable as when I open myself up completely to a story. I feel everything the character's feel, I force myself into the emotional nuances of unknown territory. In sitting down and routing out how others might feel in a situation based on how you might feel, true empathy is born. True empathy brings with it a slow, hard ache for everything that is wrong in the world.

    Or maybe I'd just seen too much of life by the time I was ten and had to find a way to deal with it all.

  16. Art can turn great pain into something beautiful, something beautiful with meaning – but, of course, beauty can also be appreciated without meaning for some. I agree with you that some people can write convincingly about pain without experiencing it – they are people that possess great empathy with the human condition.

  17. Pain may harden our souls…or it can be the catalyst of great change. It can propel us to become active to right wrongs, to lend our voices, our arts, to bringing awareness to some important injustice. Pain contains great energy – that we can use to wallow in, or to direct for change.

  18. A thought-provoking post. I agree with what gloriathepoet wrote: "its the artist’s experiences of pain that makes him/her able to recreate the depths of those emotions with so much precision and imagery that the reader is left enthralled and fixated on that work." Personally, my best work seems to come from a depth of emotion. I need not necessarily have experienced what the character experiences, but if I can *translate* the depth of a feeling I know, the character is richer for it. Nice post, Cristian.

  19. You don't NEED to suffer to produce great art, but you do need to live. To experience. To make mistakes. To win. To lose. Pain and struggle are part of the process, but not the purpose. Where pain can motivate creativity, prosperity may lull into complacency. There is certainly artistic value in suffering. But there is artistic value in contentment, in ecstasy, in confusion… harness the power of life and your art will speak.

  20. You stir two main thoughts here for me. One is the distinction between pain (unavoidable) and suffering (trying to escape inevitable pain). I think writing inspired or shaped by pain must not be entangled in it so it is itself fraught – the writing must transcend the pain – so that the writing does not suffer!

    Second, I believe living is writing. We experience partially, remember selectively, relate our lives to others differently to different listeners… We are all processes of self-writing, self-narrative – memory is authoring. As to your last paragraph – are we then writing to shape the narrative of that experience more closely to what we desire to remember?

    Always amazed at the consistent quality of your posts


  21. If you create a great work of art when you are depressed it is in spite of the depression not because of it. I think it's been established that everyone does their best work when they are healthy and inspired. That is not to say that suffering does not play a part in shaping the attitude of the artist. We all suffer in life artist or not; it's how it shapes your thinking that counts. Some acquire greater understanding and compassion for their fellow humans and some do not. Combine the lessons learned and a passion for expressing yourself along with reasonable health and you have got a recipe for an artist of any kind. Okay, dedication, hard work, and perseverance helps.

  22. Passionate or heartbroken, mundane or living on the edge… does it really matter? If you're writing true – from the heart – that's the most important thing. Thanks for the glimpse inside your head today.

  23. I think, yes,"To be an artist,one must suffer",but to be a true artist,you have to see the beauty and overcome the pain.People who have it too easy , who have seen none of life or don't care deeply cannot write deeply, but if they only see the bad, cannot overcome thier pain, they have little to offer, even in works that are truly dark.

  24. Wow very similar to an essay I just wrote. But I feel my writing comes best when I experience something powerful, whether good or bad. If I just try to write because I feel I have to do it and have no 'inspiration'…then I don't usually end up feeling as though I have a decent piece…. What we write about, or paint or whatever doesn't have to come from pain necessarily–but I feel it comes from an emotional place. Not dead space.

  25. just an FYI….every one of your last half dozen posts has addressed my challenges directly as I prepare to attend a 5 day writer's conference in New Mexico at the end of the month. I am stuck, but between you and my assigned conference buddy, God is providing me with the encouragement and specific direction I need….and the permission to let this time of few written words be what it needs to be. It is good.

  26. Pain does not necessarily make us tougher, but it may make us less afraid.

    If there is one thing artists can never do then it's to be (permanently) held back by fear, and by boundaries.

    Exploring one's fears and one's boundaries, crossing them, even literally, by working too long, can bring pain.

    It's like a dance, a tango, steps forward, steps back.

  27. The legend of guitar, Stevie Ray Vaughan, comes to mind whenever I think of art as expression of emotion. When you watch Vaughan play live through Texas Flood you can tell he pours his entire soul into every bend of the string; it's always fascinated me to watch such transfer of emotional energy through music.

    I sit back as if in a dream; his soul can be heard through his music, and subsequently, my soul is touched in a way words can't describe.

  28. I think the key to writing well is empathy. While that can open us up to a lot of pain, it also opens us up to great joy as well. You have to be able to empathize with your antagonists as well as you empathize with your protagonists. Or at least that's how I think of it.

  29. This post has energized me to launch into my past and wake up that teenage me who loved writing wherever he was. I know there's inspiration in the air we breath. Thanks for this post! I'm so blessed!!

  30. Everybody deals with pain. Artists don't have exclusive rights on this issue, but we can let others know they're not alone. You're so right about capturing moments. Very nice post.

  31. In my case I do paint whenever the way I feel, it is more the feeling of letting go, when it does happen, that I do like, not thinking about anything, listening to music and painting, I can say the same thing about drinking too…but I had to slow down in case of drinking…:) Of course I'm no writer, maybe it would be a bit different for me, I think writing is more about expressing yourself, in case of painting, it is also, but it is less 'structured' if I can say..

  32. As always, nicely put. But as I was sharing this on my writing fb page, I realized that while your points are very valid, there's more.

    For me,writing uncovers pain, either from my past that I didn't realize, or things I've unconsciously tried to suppress. Writing brings my feelings, good bad and ugly, to the surface so that I can share them and connect with others who may understand or feel the same way. It's now my way of accepting and letting go.

    Thanks for another great post.


  33. I've always felt it a fallacy that you MUST be in pain to create art. It helps but it's not essential and vital. My best writing has been the most joyous, alive and happy of my life, inspired by the harshest brutalities that have haunted me (not much honestly).

  34. In one of my novels, a mother tells her daughter that it's not what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, it's what doesn't kill us makes us more open to love if we can get past the hurt. You're right in that pain itself doesn't inspire, hardening the soul. But if the heart can learn from the pain, if the soul is stretched wider from that brokenness, ahh… There is a better heart with which to love.

  35. I so could relate to this. The best literary works I produced was from the most lowest points in my life. To my friends I am the "Queen of Sad" as my work evokes that sense of poignancy in them. I think it is because it is easier for me to write about pain and despair or as you aptly pointed out, maybe because there is nothing else left to do.

    Reading your post has made me rethink and made me thought of sunshine and laughter and how I wish I could capture them in words.

    Kudos, write more, you're a good read.

  36. "It all comes down to our own capability to understand and analyze life. We wish to recapture the moments of joy, to keep the flame alive long after our memories have turned to dust."

    I completely agree! There is so much more to writing than a catharsis of misery. Imagery can be used to capture glorious moments that would otherwise be lost to time. It's simply a way, for me, to recapture moments and emotions that I might otherwise lose. Granted, writing has always been an outlet for negative emotions… but it's so much more than that! It's always refreshing to know someone else understands!

  37. Cristian~ pleasure and pain are both so inspirational. I always write my best pieces when I am feeling emotionally charged. There is just something more about the pain. It makes us dig deep~ deep into the things about me that I hesitate to share, but have such a need to do so.

    This is a wonderful post…


  38. Pain and suffering are just part and parcel of existence. It doesn't necessarily lead to the lithification of a soul, but it can be a source of refinement and greater understanding.

    That is to say, I wouldn't seek out a miserable life in an effort to increase credibility as an artist, but I wouldn't discount the instructive qualities of suffering, either.

  39. Indeed. They say comic artists are the loneliest people in the planet but I'm still into making people laugh, if not, at least smile a bit… Wonderful blog and content. Keep writing. Though I don't comment much but I am an avid reader.

  40. I didn't decide to write until I found myself too sick to work – in my case pain was the spark that lit the match, but it's burned steadily even as I've gotten healthier. I think sometimes, as you said, it takes pain, or hitting bottom, for us to discover what is worth living for – but I don't think you have to stay miserable in order to find creative success!

  41. Im not sure how to respond to the question at the last paragraph. But i very much like this "Art is a means of escaping oppression or fighting against it. But you don’t have to experience oppression in order to write about it, in order to make a stand." – this is not the case now as pop art and culture i think largely promotes consumerism, escapism, individualism, apathy, and almost nil on fighting oppression), and hence the need for more artists that will promote art that fight well, not just escapes, but fights oppression and injustice. indeed, artists and everyone else should not wait to be oppressed and should take advantage of whatever freedom we still have before we take a stand on the issues that face our society.

  42. I think that pain can be trans-formative in the life of any artist. It is the grist in the mill that spurs you on in the darkest nights of your life. It is the private agony that causes us to burn with passion when no one wants to hear us or help us. I never would have picked up a pen if I didn't have a secret longing to cry out against the oppression that I find in my world. Pain can lock you inside a shell…or can cause you to bang on the door of your writing destiny. I don't welcome it, but I do respect it and continue to be changed and transformed by it.

  43. Reblogged this on jamesisthereason and commented:
    It doesn't matter if she left without saying goodbye, if he let go without so much as a kiss, if your home is nothing more than a few sticks and a puddle of mud, if your family is all found under six feet of loamy soil. Your pain is still pain.

    Just don't forget the happy times, either.

  44. Interesting post.

    No, it isn't pain and suffering that makes great art, but surely the capacity to understand that pain and suffering. Empathy is a large part of writing. One doesn't need to bleed in order to write about bleeding any more than one needs to murder to write about murder.

    Empathy, sympathy, compassion, understanding underpinned by reasonable research are more important than being miserable.

  45. Love your posting, and as always your writing… but one might not need pain to be a great writer but I find it impossible to imagine getting to appreciation, strength and humility without it. If one has never loved or cared for anyone else more than oneself.

    My philosophy professor years ago once said…."you would not know pleasure without pain." I tried to prove him wrong but failed…

    "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

    -Helen Keller

    Thank you so much for a thought provoking morning!

  46. maybe that's exactly what art "needs"? that other way around. something so soft that the softness itself softens all the hardness that comes in its way. simply because it can nothing but melt in its presence. something that comes, springs from something pure. from a place where yes, on the surface pain still might be pain, might be felt very, very deep, momentary, but where the fuel comes from, is, the purity itself, the flame itself: the pure joy of being and living and of sharing that beingness and aliveness with the world. in what ever way one feels natural and flourishing. pain creates pain. stress creates stress. love creates … love. and our bodies and systems receive it all, somewhere. seemingly, art never lies. all is ok, all is what it is, but what love really is, kind of put all the other things in true perspective, gives all the other things a whole different light of appearances. at least, that is what this heart tells me …

    i really enjoy your writing, your views and sharing! thank you.


  47. "Art is a means of escaping oppression or fighting against it. " I agree with this, but never understood it until this year.

    Short story, long: After Kuwait I got my GI Bill and went to college with the dream of making films. Got my BA (so I can write reel-good but can't get behind camera) and tried my hand at English-language manga. Manga famous is a weird kind of famous in that, 99% of the comics world has no idea who you are, but to the 1% who do know you–you're a G*ddess. Financially and egotistically unrewarding I left if behind and took a job at a bank. Been in banking for 4 years and still working on that 'first novel' as of 2012.

    Writing for me has become my only escape from the hassle of 'real life' responsibility. In my own juvenile way I've determined 'working for a living in a non-creative field' is the ultimate form of oppression.

  48. Nice post..if we never could tell how death was unless you tasted it..but no one comes after dying to tell about experiencing death..then to know death we must know birth , for life leaves one grave the womb to come to life and must go to another grave..and more light..

  49. Here's a musing based off of your post:

    Without light there is no shadow to be cast.

    Without shadow there is no light to break through.

    Can you measure the shadow cast by the light and proportionally compare the length of one to the other? Or the importance of one over the other?

    The face is a series of planes of light and shadow, forming beauty and ugliness.

    The greatest novels are a series of reflections, observations, intuitions and digestions of the life we have or have had or want to have.

    No, suffering artists do not write the best novels. But they definitely have experience: through their own lives or through others' lives.

  50. "Pain doesn’t inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy"

    I like what you wrote over all. I often wonder why people write or why I write for that matter. I just do not agree with your statement about pain. Pain initiates us into to really living our life truthfully and not superficially. For me as an older woman I have found storytelling and writing is as old as Halloween. It is as old and archaic as oral traditions around the fireplace… Now it is around the computer. Yes, one does not have to suffer to be a talented artist or writer. But, pain does add the element of creative depth, a sparkle of the soul that emanates from an artist. It is part of their work. If this is not there it is often empty. It is like a babe that needs to live more to understand that life is scared. Often it is through pain that we come to realize this. Pain helps us to grow and inspires others to develop compassion. Art and writing without a glimpse of the pain of the soul only shows a story that becomes immune to tragedy. Then I say why write, for fame, joy or glory… this is nothing.

  51. i'm so sorry to say i disagree completely. i echo what hudley says. we evolve through pain. pain inspires gratitude. pain does not harden the soul, pain elevates it.

    experiencing personal pain allows us to have compassion for others: "i understand how you feel. i am here for you."

    pain is essential; it is woven into the fabric of human existence. after all, we are here on earth to suffer. we learn through dis-ease. we connect with each other through our difficult experiences. so it makes sense that successful writers would share their pain in effort to connect.

    there are all types of pain. it's not just bullet wounds and broken hearts. pain is living a temporary life. pain is parenting. pain is living a lie. pain is loneliness. pain is a un-fulfillment.

    if people only wrote about sunshine and rainbows, few would read it or relate to it, because that is not reflective of human life. and it's not necessarily interesting either. if we want to write about something interesting, it's best to experience it personally. otherwise, the writing is hollow.


  52. I can concur. But I can also see how the pain of yesterday, may make ones tomorrow feel that much more triumphant. If you write about that which you have no experience of, those that have, will and continue to experience it, may find difficulty in one's assertions. Great Post. A joy to read eh.

  53. I think pain *can* be motivational emotion, but I don't think it's the pain itself that inspires us, i think it's what that pain means to us. The same can be said of love, loss, joy, anger, envy, or any other experience. Pain can help us to find solace, or appreciation, or respect. It can highlight something lost or be a road to something yet to be found. I can say that I experienced great emotional pain a few years in my life, more than i could stand. It didn't harden me to the tragedy involved, it motivated me to change what i considered my fate; a fate I had blindly yet willingly chosen. Yet i don't relish that pain because in many ways it haunts me, so I seek yet to fully overcome it. I can use that in my writing (and have) but it's not some 'holy suffering' for me. It's a well of ink I can chosen to dip my metaphorical pen into, nothing more.

  54. After wandering around in the realm of pure thought, I always thought that part of the artists' discontent is the fact that they have to return to deal with the material world. It is difficult to be in the world and not of it.

  55. Wonderful post. I love your last sentence. I think that is why I photograph. "to recapture the moments of joy, to keep the flame alive long after our memories have turned to dust"

  56. It's refreshing to read someone's philosophy on these things- I have always felt that I needed tragedy in order to create my art, and I have used tragedy here and there for inspiration, but quite often it can fog my vision of the pieces I make and if I were working in a happier state of mind I might make better art.

  57. Wonderful thoughts Cristian…..

    I believe we need contrast in our lives to recognize what is true and what is lovely. We would never know light unless we had been acquainted with the darkness. We would never know, recognize or appreciate true unfettered love unless we had been acquainted with it's opposite. The beautiful, mysterious thing is that we can use it ALL to create! How amazing!!

  58. I have experienced a lot of heartache and loss. I spent a year locked away in my room avoiding everything and depressed beyond hope. It wasn't until I came out of that depression that I began writing again. Everything I write is out of joy and triumph and wanting to share that with others. Some of what I write does recount the bad days, but I do it as a reminder to myself of where I was and in hopes of helping someone else who may read what I write. There is absolute truth in what you say and I thank you for sharing.

  59. "Like I said, for a long time I used to think that art never comes out of happiness. I used to write in my darkest moments, when there was nothing else to do. Every time you pass a point of no return, there’s only one thing left to do. You can write about it. I used to think that you have to hit rock bottom because that way art will be the only thing you have left. You know, when you write to live, not the other way around."

    This is my life ! I have fallen in love with your writing

  60. Most of what I write has its genesis in frustration, which is not the same as pain. I think that really talented writers and artists must have the ability to at least understand pain, even if the don't personally experience it. They must be empathetic.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  61. i was just thinking about suffering and writing the other day. It appears you were in the same thought pattern i was in regards to suffering and good art. I'm glad to see you came to the conclusion that you don't have to suffer. Makes me feel a little bit better about living a charmed life and trying to write and create.

  62. For me, my brain just wont stop. I have so many ideas and things to say, if I didn't write, I'd go crazy, even if I never publish anything. I actually spent this evening proofreading the first few chapters of the NaNoWriMo novel I started in 2010.

    I think pain gives us a place to start. We all need a place to start. It's easier to start with pain. We remember pain better than pleasure. We often have to take our time and focus to see our own joys in life, but the pain seems to come with a bright neon sign. Through the expression of pain, we are able to relive the joy and share our life, learning, and experiences with others.

    This is a beautiful post. And CONGRATULATIONS on being Freshly Pressed!

  63. There's so much to love about this post. I don't know where to begin….

    In my experience, I write or paint my best works during one of three states: when I'm miserable or super emotional about something (1. misery), when I'm having an awesome day or when I'm extremely happy (2. elation), or when I've procrastinated to the last minute and must absolutely not waste any more time (3. desperation).

    I would agree that art does not require pain in order to be deep and meaningful, but it does have to come from an emotional place.

    Thank you for sharing! Please stop by my blog for a read.

  64. 'I used to think that you have to hit rock bottom because that way art will be the only thing you have left. You know, when you write to live, not the other way around'

    I still think that… but then you came out of it so hopeully light is round the corner for me too.

  65. Pain and suffering make good copy, nice/happy/contented things less so.

    So if good copy is pain and suffering you need to have experienced it to write about it, these are not elements of life you can really imagine well enough to be convincing on the page.

    As an example – I think Ernest Hemingway is a the biggest fraud in writing history, he can write like nobodies business but most of his experience was vicarious. His war stories are ridiculous, only someone who has been in war can really describe it convincingly. All his tough guy heroes are anything but.

    Sorry for the rant (I like reading Hemingway the way I like reading Jules Verne – good writing about subjects the writer has fantasised about)

  66. I always thought Art can be healing and inspiration while all at the same time taking into account the darkness of humanity. I think artists are more sensitive people and are thus prone to feeling out their emotions more; hence a bit of a flair for the dramatic and the recklessness associated with artists at times. But I am my happiest when creating Art and so I loved your blog quite so. Bravo!


  67. One of my favourite Canadian painters, lived a long and happy plus very productive life up to 100 yrs. I bought a watercolour of hers. She also wrote 3 autobiographies, in addition to painting several hundred canvasses, teaching art for 40 yrs.

    I think it's because she made friends well, had a few long standing, close artist-friends and accepted people on their own terms. She also travelled to paint..still when she was into her 80's. Very inspiring. Yes, I did meet her at one of her exhibitions.

    Did she experience personal pain..she was in love with someone for awhile. But later, never married. EVeryone, everyone does experience emotional pain that is significant.

  68. I've always written as a way to express whatever I'm feeling, and that can be funny or sad. But I find that emotion plays a big part in it. I think what makes it good to others is whether or not it's something they can relate to or feel if they can imagine themselves in that context. Good post. Congrats on FP!

  69. Let me put this straight ,

    it's simply inspiring for all the amature writers , who thinks that misery is the only refuge for writing .

    I really don't know much about writers and their world but all i can deduce from my past experience

    is that all writers do write in pain , as if the whole world is falling apart and they are the only one who can mend the world . No , i am not criticising their way of writing , it would be foolish to do so

    cause i adore those writings in the same way as everyone does . But this thought really do come in my mind that ,"Why they write in such pain ?" i guess this question comes in my mind cause of my curiosity to peek in their wold and beliefs .

  70. It is a great outlet to be able to write what is causing you such pain. And sadly there are a lot of great writers that have used this as an advantage. Pain and suffering seems to have made good reading and a lot of people a lot of money.

    I guess there is always the illusion that if you read about someone else's misfortunes then you can skate around the issue yourself. I do agree with you that you do not have to have experiences distressing circumstances it all comes down to the analytical mind and whether or not you suffer from lack of description in a convincing manner.

    Great post and congrats on the FP :D Don't be a stranger :D

  71. Great post, Christian! It is such a gift when we can use our pain, create with and/or from our pain, instead of turning it away or trying so hard to escape from it. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, as well.

  72. Excellent post, Cristian! I find that my writing is best when it includes all the elements of life: love, joy, sorrow, pain…and sometimes, just the mundane. Including it all makes the writing more relatable to the reader. Art–regardless of form–should be more accessable so that it can inspire others to join us in creating even more!

    Congratulations on the Freshly Pressed! Don't let the joy stop you from writing! :~)

  73. This is post is beautiful in the way that it transcends other art forms as well. While loss and pain may play a part of the art, music, or dance we create or perform, our whole existence as artists doesn't necessarily have to be centered on our loss and pain. I'm an optimist by nature and while I love to experience works of art that are deeply moving (and sometimes painful) I also like to experience works that expound on the joys and beauty in this world. Thanks for the great post, and thanks for encouraging all of us to capture the fleeting moments of life in our respective art forms.

  74. As Pope John Paul II writes in his Letter to Artists, "Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one's own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things. All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardour of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendour which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit." #6 May God bless you; and may you see beauty in itself in all that you create!!

  75. Congrats on the Fresh Press! For every several suffering artists, I have found one that is downright disgustingly bubbly. Of course, what's going on in the depths of their souls, no one really knows.

  76. Pain can teach you things — if you are in the frame of mind to be taught. Otherwise, it won't teach you any more than any other life experience.

    I think for me, the main poisonous belief about being an artist is that, in order to be an artist, one has to be reckless with one's welfare. Drink, do drugs, sleep on other people's couches, never have a full-time job etc. I think it's just a lie made up by kids in their 20s because they don't want to grow up and be responsible for themselves, so they act like it's not their fault, they're Artists or some garbage.

    And the supposedly great "artists" who self-destructed (Hendrix, Joplin, etc.) aren't exactly making great art now, are they? They're rotting in a pine box. If you want to make art, you have to take care of yourself well enough to survive. There's nothing artistic about choosing to starve, especially when there are billions of people on this planet who can't choose not to.

    In the end, that belief that one can be artistically starving prevents anyone who isn't an artsy trust fund kid from becoming an artist. There's nothing artistic about starvation and economic destitution when you can't choose NOT to endure it.

  77. I paint when I'm happy! Or bored, or any time, really. I think it's different for everyone where the inspiration comes from. The art of children can be so mind-blowing sometimes… the stuff that comes out of their minds… and they don't have to be melacholy to produce it!

  78. Hi Cristian, With media attention and financial considerations among collectors being what they are in the art world, young and struggling artists must take comfort in the fact that making art is not about making money; it's about making art. If you got into this art game primarily to make a lot of money and are now upset because you're not making enough of it as fast as you thought you would, then you're in the wrong profession and you'd better get out now.

  79. I'm coming late to this discussion, but I just wanted to add that I'm in agreement with you. I once thought that great art was only produced in extremes. Then I read a remark, but can't remember who said it — Zola? Flaubert? — that one should be bourgeois in one's habits in order to be bold and revolutionary in one's art. That rang true for me then: Your post reinforced this for me again today.

  80. This is also something that I have been realizing. My dream is to end up being a published Author, and the last four years have been a huge learning process. I have learned that I am actually better at writing when I am happy than when I am upset or depressed. I think that a lot of emotion is carried through your writing when you are in a bad mood, but no one wants to read angry stuff all the time. Great article! Followed!

  81. I've always thought that I have to suffer to get really inspired, but recently I started to understand that it's not true, and now thanks to you I'm totally convinced. Thank you so much for inspiring me.

  82. Great post. Great writing doesn't come from pain, it comes from emotion, be that great pain or great joy, Many writers have had very troubled lives but I do not think that it is a requirement. I certainly hope not anyway! Congrats on being FP!

  83. Hi Christian! Your posts always keep me thinking about what you have said for days on end. You always bring the reader to an understanding about others and themselves. I'm glad to see that you have been "Freshly Pressed". Very well deserved.

    I agree that artists don't have to struggle, starve or end up on the edge to be able to be a true artist. An artist is someone who empathizes with others and has the ability to not let the pain harden themselves, allowing them to be able to communicate those feelings to others. How they communicate those feelings is what makes them the true artist. It's about what touches us in life. Your life, my life and the lives of others.

  84. Yep. I can relate. I was diagnosed Bipolar and was told to "accept my lot in life" that I would need lifelong medications for mental stability. Actually the reverse happened. I accepted my lot in life and my brain chemicals balanced themselves out. Of course now that I don't fear rejection anymore for being different, I feel lonelier than ever. After I starting my writing ministry and making a career as a freelance writer my wife left me as well as most of my friends who won't even give me a chance to prove my stability off those meds. makes me doubt myself all over again.

  85. This is why I love your blog so much! All of your posts have great substance to them and are well written! Not to mention you're very talented! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Keep up the great work!

  86. I agree you don't have to experience pain and suffering in order to write about them; however, if you do experience about them, you know exactly how to put the words to paper. In my experience, my pain has transformed me, and I believe that it is because of my pain that I am a better writer. When I'm writing fiction, I often draw from my painful experiences, especially when it is a scene that involves sorrow/tragedy, etc. The cliche that a brilliant artist of any sort is a tortured soul is a cliche for a reason.

  87. Thanks for this exploration of what experiences flow into writing and questioning need to be a constant well of unhappiness. When decades younger I thought writers needed to be tres, tres sad. Not now. You are great writer. Thanks for informative and inspiring posts. I will look for the author you mention.

  88. If a writer waits to experience all of life's misery before he writes he must be able to do it posthumously. I write to drain my mind of the thoughts I cannot express verbally. Your analysis is thought provoking and insightful. Congratulations on being FP.

  89. "You know, you can’t fully understand love unless you get your heart broken" I wonder. I think about a 20-something who would say they lost the love of their life after a break up. Is that the same love as a 60-something who married and still lives with his high school sweet heart? Does that 20-something know or understand love better than the 60-something? I'm not sure about that. I think you're on a good path when you note that we learn from our experiences, our changes.

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  91. I tend to agree with you about pain hardening our souls rather than making it possible to create. On the other hand, the experience of hardship is one of the essential ingredients in helping to make any artistic expression 'real' – by which I mean it evokes real emotions in the recipient, just as it does in the artist. That encompasses all forms of human creativity, too, not just the visual arts. What did Hemingway say again? To write, you just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. Something of that nature. He was right, of course.

  92. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. I agree that art can come from more than suffering and pain. Of course, trying to find just the right words sometimes inflicts its own pain and suffering. But, oh the triumph when it finally comes together! Knowing pain makes joy sweeter, so really I expect that having felt both can help us express it better. Great post!

  93. Congrats on begin Freshly Pressed! Yay!! This is a great post and a good question to ponder. I think it's about experiences all together and some of them are bound to be painful. I don't think you can experience those joyful moments fully without living through pain.

  94. I like your post, but I disagree with your reasoning. I, personally, have Bipolar Disorder. I used to write in my darkest times. After getting on medication, my writing began to suffer and I craved the dark days of angst and inspiration. Have you heard that Evanescence song "Lithium?" That's what it's about. Loving the darkness. I think that, certainly, some people write about darkness because they long for the light. I don't think you're wrong, I just think it doesn't apply to everyone. The post is very well-written and I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. :)

  95. Interesting post. I suffered a profound loss in my life, I lost a child, and I suffered greatly. I was a novelist before that loss, and when out of pure desperation I was finally able to return to writing, I found that the process of writing a novel inspired by my loss saved my life. And I also realized that I write, as Huxley said, to make order out of this disordered life. I write because the process of writing heals me. I think I'm a better writer for having learned that, because it has allowed me to write what moves me, to be more in process than outcome.

  96. I agree with your post. I've been a writer of all things since I was 6 (first short stories, then poetry, then songs, and recently I've been working on a novel). I'm not famous, because I worry about people connecting what I write to my face (afraid to show what's inside).However, you either have to be extremely empathetic (I am) or you have to experience the things you present to the world (I have/am/and probably will continue to). This is, of course, in reference to the issue of experiencing pain. But it's true that people can experience joy and create art out of joy. However, I've never seen anyone who's led a happy life produce something of worth and depth regarding pain. There's always something missing, or it's simply parroting what those that experience the pain say and do.

    Cristian- I do very much appreciate what you have to say and how well-written this is! I saw this on twitter, by the way :)

  97. Very thoughtful, however I would argue, (or gently make my case I should say) that pain DOES indeed act as an agent for inspiration. If we view pain, or jealousy or any host of negative attitudes and emotions from an alchemical perspective we can effectively transmute our hardened, heavy hearts into expressive and compassionate ones that will serve to change both our inner and outer space for the higher exaltation of human evolution.

  98. "Isn’t it true that we write about the things we had and lost not because of the pain we feel, but because we wish to recapture the moments of joy, to keep the flame alive long after our memories have turned to dust?" – OMG..! You are so beautiful! I loved your wrtings. .I would love to read your books… became a huge fan of urs…!!!

  99. I LOVED your article and agree 100%

    I believe that I do not need to experience something on order to understand it, just an open mind AND heart.

    Thanks for raising the point………

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  101. When I looked at my frozen dabs of paint beneath the New York winter skylight I wished I'd never seen an image of "the starving artist in the garret" because I was living that dream. But pain has made me compassionate, one could say empathetic. When I see someone struggling to open a door or hold a gallon of milk, I assist readily because I've been there.

  102. I had a drawing teacher who talked a lot about the tension between different elements of a composition. I think tension is what animates art (painting, music, writing, etc). People who experience a lot of pain may have greater access to that kind of tension, but anyone can access it with practice and study.

  103. Insightful entry! I liked this part the best: "I think it all comes down to how much life changes us, how we react and learn from our mistakes and experiences. I also believe that pain or suffering aren’t required to become a writer. You don’t have to be starving in order to write the next Great American Novel. You need the right message to transmit and the right tools to make people understand it."

    I feel like in my life I felt more creative in my youth because I was struggling and sad and ignorant and oblivious. But then, the world opened up to me, and I opened up to the world, and creativity came from those times in my life and still do. With pain as a fuel to creative fire, inspiration, love, hope, and curiosity are other fuels.

    There is a great TED talk about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about creativity being something that people struggle with and how artists are tormented by their art, or not. How do they cope with being able to create and not being able to.

    Congratulations on the fresh press!

  104. All my favorite artists tended to suffer…but who doesnt. When I am creating, I just let things work their way out…exercising angels or demons or clowns, either way I couldnt live without the ability to create. I love it all.

  105. Congrats on getting Freshly-Pressed. You do doubt will be getting many clicks. This post, as in many of your other ones, are great. You are so perceptive and you speak from the heart.

  106. Your words mean so much to me! In the back of my mind i've been playing with what I thought was the "fact" that the pain I've experienced in life is what makes me more able to write. That I could never write a happy piece of poetry, or a happy song. But your words have put me at ease, with the truth that I've known all along, but not quite accepted. Pain does make us harder, and love and happiness shows us how much we must appreciate it. I love this, and feel quite privileged to read your words. Thank you! Quite inspiring.

  107. Great piece! I just got finished reading Shawn Colvin's memoir which has a lot to say on this topic. She's done so well and come through so much and now she's touring the UK/Ireland and just got married in Ireland! Congratulations to her and all artists that overcome!

  108. This topic is very interesting and I dare to say that it has crossed the mind of, perhaps, every artist. I also find myself stuck in the pain element of art because there is something so amusing about dark times. But holding on to it constantly is, I believe, unnecessary and masochist behavior, no matter how tempting it is rely on pain. And joy, on the other hand, is just as good inspiration.

  109. Pain can harden us, can kill us…but fortunately it can also bring out the deepest and most profound beauty in people. It is our response to pain that makes all the difference. The trouble with serious pain is that without understanding and working through it, we can get trapped in a kind of hell. This is probably the fate of most people who suffer too much and too long.

    In this day and age we don't like to think we have any need for suffering. But truly original expression is nearly always born of a kind of necessity, by the individual's need to save some threatened piece of herself. The art is the vehicle by which the individual both inhabits and transcends their own personal suffering.

    Artists or creative folks breaking new ground will often experience more pain in life simply because they strive to stand outside the norms of cultural expression.

  110. Thanks for this. Although I myself do not stive to be a writer, I do this this applies to any aspect of creativity. I have stuggleinitiating creative thought and action in my current days because life seems so good, but i feel a sense of responsability to share my thoughts and views in spoken word, art and film. I am turning a new leaf, in which positive action and life experince can be used as inpiration as well. Your thoughts touched on that exactly.

  111. Congratulations on Freshly Pressed! I agree with most of your post, that suffering is not required to make an artist or create art. However, I respectfully disagree with what you say towards the end, ‘Pain doesn’t inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy.’ In my life, I must honestly say that had I not experienced difficult times, I would have sort of happily gone through life in my own little world, perhaps even being judgmental at times of people whose difficulties I didn’t understand. Now my eyes have been opened to struggles I didn’t understand before, and I find that makes me more empathetic of others who are suffering. Even if it’s not what I’m going through, I can still relate. I find now there are things I wouldn’t change…well…maybe…because of the perspective I have on the other side. Experiencing pain drives me to change misperceptions of others, and having been through difficult times drives me to give hope to others, to tell them things can get better.

  112. Experiencing pain can also help us to be more empathetic towards others, we don't need to imagine their pain, because we have felt it ourselves. I only have to see a cancer patient now, to be flooded with empathy, I know what they are going through.

  113. I think feeling pain, whether directly or indirectly, can inspire a person. An example of this would be how satirists write satires to expose and criticize the faults in society.

  114. As a predominantly visual artist, I have always despised the starving and frustrated artist stereotypes.

    Yes, the tribulations that I have faced throughout my life have indeed given life and honesty to my artistic expression but so have the times of comfort also.

    You don't have to suffer in order to be a great artist. You have to be creative, visionary and focused.

  115. Rang a bell here, didn't you!

    'Suffering artist' is a romantic cliche writers have used–and abused–and you're correct on all counts, seems to me.

    Nothing can be art unless it is first, work. Only after the worker has mastered his tools can he aspire to art. If great art is intended, it will for most, remain an aspiration. But it is the best goal for any creative worker, nevertheless…

  116. Yes, I agree. :-) Art is happiness and beauty. For me, the purpose of art (including writing) is to transmute the pain and suffering of the world into something sublime, pure and true. Transcendence comes when the deep roots of pathos are awakened, but from those roots must grow the blossom of beautiful transformation. If we get stuck in the pain, we're not offering anything of value to the world. But if we can glimpse the unchanging beauty at the heart of all our human experiences – joyful and painful – we can open a doorway of understanding for ourselves and others. Creativity exists at the threshold of this doorway.

  117. I'm not an artist but I want to comment on the statement of:

    "Pain doesn't inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy".

    On the contrary. My pain inspires me to elude pain by anything possible. I look for comedy and music for laughter and peace of mind where if not for them I'd find none. And certainly doesn't ever make me immune to tragedy. In fact I take it harder than most. I'd rather not have ever experienced pain or to have lived in it for so damn long, but from it I can show compassion for others experiencing the same.

    Makes my soul kinder. If anything hardens me is people who hide and find it intolerable to comfort those who are in it. I think sometimes they need a strong dose of it to see what it's like and how thankful they should feel having been without.

    Pain can crush you dead or indeed inspire in one way or another an outlet for it and at times it does transcend into something sometimes remarkable.

    Definitely can concentrate better creating without pain, but then look at one of the greatest pieces that ever came out of it. The Scream…

    Then look at 60s psychedelia. Believe me all those beautiful colors from those creating it didn't feel any pain. lol

    It is ones state of mind and heart and how you choose to use it.

  118. I always make jokes that all those with great minds have suffered severely. Of course it is not true but from my experience when I have been in a dark state I have managed to write things that I wouldn't usually find myself capable of. I think it is because when we are in a dark place it seems that there is nothing in the world that could be worse than our inner turmoil and therefore feel as though we have a greater sense of being because once you have been to the darkest depths of your own mind there is nothing to censor your creative expression. You let out raw emotion. In saying that, art has no bounds, therefore it doesn't have to be deep. A perfectly happy person can write about the human condition with just as much meaning.

  119. I love your question because it allows me to think about why I write. I have answered that question and I write so that the truths I find that help me may help others.

  120. I used to believe it, too. i have bi-polar II disorder and I believed that getting help would kill my creativity. I finally got help after I started a family and couldn't function in that role. Guess what? I'm more productive now than ever. And I'm happier than ever. It's a lie that we cannot be productive and happy born out of the artist myth. One of the gifts of creativity is a vast imagination and empathy for other humans. Tap into that and you have all you need to write deeply about suffering and the human condition.

  121. Nice work, Christian. Well said and well put. It's ironic that we think we have to be miserable to make beauty. I for one would rather have both–to live beautifully and to make beautifully. Perhaps it has to do with our society's lack of appreciation for beauty at times that we feel we have to remain misunderstood. For me, it is just as rewarding to have an espresso and a smoke with another fantastic intellect than it is to sit in a room and write alone. They are different kinds of enjoyment, but both can sustain us as you said 'to live a long life.' Keep these up. My current post will be 'freshly pressed' as well. Congratulations on your own pressing! Take care.

  122. Really interesting insight. There are all kinds of different artists with experiences that greatly vary, so you can't draw any lines as to which experiences make a person an artist and which do not. Sometimes it's only an idea or empathy for someone else's pain.

    I think it's particularly interesting that you defined art as "a means of escaping oppression or fighting against it." This is a good definition. And more often than not, that means internal, personal oppression, which is possibly the worst kind.

    I enjoy reading your writing, please keep up the good work.


  123. I think it was Nietzsche who said "You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star." And we know that he ended up in an insane asylum. As you say, there are many writers, artists, composers who have led miserable lives (psychic and physical) – and have written masterpieces. But there are plenty who have led normal, average lives (i.e. Pirandello) who have also created works of great beauty. Suffering is the condition of every human; this is the experience for which we have been born. It is the stuff out of which we create meaning. But so are the times filled with joy and happiness: rites of passage, falling in love, the birth of your child, fulfilling a dream, etc. And these too are worthy of great expression through art. Nietzsche was a tortured soul, and his pronouncement was made to the world because he could not see beyond the confines of his own experience. Thank God we do not have to have a mental health disorder in order to create.

  124. No, actually. Sometimes, sure, we write to recapture moments of joy, but sometimes our pain leads to anger & resentment, & that in turn leads to action.

    Sometimes that action is to change the world in an attempt to prevent more pain to ourselves or others; sometimes it's simply to vent.

    And if either of those–prevention or venting–is harnessed into a narrative that entertains (& possibly informs), then that kind of writing is actually more about recapturing pain, & transforming it into that which can shine light on evil & thus destroy it.

  125. It may not be necessary to 'suffer for the art' but it certainly adds credibility if the suffering is there, however understated.

    Dammit, I mean authenticity; and perhaps by 'suffering' I mean experience. Obviously Shakespeare had actually been there, many times, when he worded Hamlet's soliloquy (which to my mind is one of the richest works ever, brief as it is).

    Carry emotion from one mind to another, yes, but unless that emotion has actually been felt it cannot be properly done, no?

  126. It may not necessary suffer for art.. rejoice with art is also possible. There are too many reasons to write, and mostly triggered by emotions. It may not be negative, even though people seem to write when they don't feel good..

    I think observation can help a writer write better too. Hence the "been there done that" theory is not necessary to write better.

  127. I like this post. It's made me think and I'm going to write about it. Just one comment/thought: I believe becoming 'hardened' by pain is ultimately an unconscious choice. We can choose again. We can let the wound heal and the scab fall off. To me, that is the most noble challenge we have, collectively, as human beings. Progressing through the journey of being hurt, perhaps almost destroyed, but to rise again out of the ashes. I believe most of us live the 'Hero's Journey' in one way or another. In different ways, to different degrees, but we all do. One of the many gifts that writers have an opportunity to share with the world is a view from a different window and along roads most would simply pass by. Keep at it all you scribes out there. We need you.

  128. As a formerly vibrant artist who now suffers from physical pain 24/7, for the past 7 years, I have many thoughts on this subject… !

    The main one is: people do NOT want to hear about it. Have learned this the hard way.

    Nice post.

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  130. Hi Christian, I think art expresses the entire range of the human experience, and I know what you mean about suddenly getting that suffering isn't the only catalyst for creativity! I thought you might enjoy this quote by Matisse,

    "What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue."

    It's all good, I think, as long as we come from an honest place.

  131. I understand what you are saying here and agree. There are some things about being an artist that make a certain degree of pain inevitable. You have to let down the walls and see things most people are happy not to see. You have to send yourself out to face rejection, one of our deepest fears as humans, more often than most. You have to allow yourself to enter into the pain of others and to realize that, most often, there is nothing you can do but mirror or express it, which is such small comfort. Most important, you must allow yourself to be a small, fresh, vulnerable child in your work, and, at the same time, the parent to that child. It is important as an artist to be a good mother or father to yourself. Sleep, good food, walks in the sunshine, friends, and all the things you would want for your little one are things that will feed your creativity and buffer inevitable disappointments. Never try to avoid grief or sadness over a loss. Instead, move into and through all of your feelings. Depression is not really sadness. It is flatness–an inability to experience any feelings. It is lifelessness in life. It comes from trying to pretend everything is fine when it isn't.

  132. My husband says that the art that is produced by pain, only inflicts pain to us!

    And I have to agree with him that we have had enough of sad, dirty, miserable, pain filled, amputated life stories in all art forms.

    Mankind is drawing to a dead end and to be honest we need positive happy art to provide the masses with "a way out"of this self inflicting phycho-terror, down spiraling society we live in.

    I am glad that people around the globe are starting to speak out about art not being a synonym of misery.

    Thank you!


  133. Art is contrast. It's like the early scene in Moby Dick where Ishmael talks about how the warmth of a blanket is only noticeable and only appreciated if your nose and fingertips are stranded beyond its edge and grow cold. Pain is useful to write about because it reminds us of pleasure.

  134. Look at the magnitude of thoughts and discussion your Struggling Artists and Pain post generated, Cristian. This was a great topic.

    I agree with your readers who say one's experience of pain can lend a more clarified perspective. Individuals who have experienced suffering (physical or mental) are generally more compassionate. Likewise, people who see their way through difficulty might be more prepared to teach others to persevere.

    Yes, it is the contrast of bliss – as opposed to misery – that so clearly defines bliss and makes it something desirable.

    Perhaps we most energetically identify with artists whose lives mirror the contrasts of our own lives.

  135. Pain should not harden us.. it should open our eyes to how fragile our lives are. The pain in our lives forces us to change, to create and do things we never thought possible (just my point of view).. Incredible Article.. I will have to dwell on this..more

  136. I find that when I work all of my emotions come out happy sad depressed horny they all come through I have a love for having the ability to collect my visual experience and replace them with feeling to outpost landscape walk in mist

  137. “Pain doesn’t inspire anything in us. Pain just hardens our souls, makes us immune to tragedy”.

    Pain is only a part of the creative process. It can delay and cause disruption. True creative spirit will of course learn to override its drag. Pascal learned not to mind debilitating headaches and went on with his life-work. Artists may have to overcome spiritual pain as well. Van Gogh learned to perfect what he felt was his true calling. He gave up his ministry overcome by the squalor and poverty of the people to whom he took to preach. He wanted to start a commune of artists and he could only manage to bring in Paul Gauguin whose personality and temperament clashed with his. Van Gogh did not have a clue to the reason why he was left high and dry despite his welcome overtures. Creative fire does not mean understanding of his own defects that put off others. Then take the case of Paul Gauguin. He left his lucrative stock brokering and family to serve the muse of art. At every turn he was let down by bad luck. In the end he took on at the invitation of the King of Tahiti only to find during the long sea voyage the king had died and the new king had no interest whatsoever to help him. He ended his life at the Marquesas is.,In the same year of his death 1903 there was a retrospective exhibition on his paintings in Paris. The world discovered one of the greatest wrists of the 20th century when it was too late for him to be helped. An artist cannot read the times in order to benefit from it in financial terms. He can only bring out from the world within despite his physical pain, spiritual malaise to keep expressing what he knows best.

  138. Absolutely spot on – great post , Cristian. All art, as life, whether painful or not, needs to move towards resolution, and not wallow.

  139. Nice blog! but in my view pain stretches us. It broadens our horizons. It allows us, as writers, as artists to speak, to write from experience. That which we KNOW is always more poignantly expressed than that which we suppose. While ideas can come without pain, specific feelings are only ever born from the concomitant emotions that go with an experience. If you want to talk about something on an emotional level you had better have experienced it, or at least something equivalent to it – otherwise your discussion is merely theoretical.

  140. very good article you got here, really impressive and mostly true. With me i write because i cant express my feelings verbally, which drives my gf crazy, so i choose to write them down in poems with hints to show her that i really care about her and that its hard for me to open up.

  141. Lovely post, I agree with you about pain, and even further I think pain creates fear and restrictions in our willingness to adventure/explore/ be inquisitive. I do think there is a strong desire (a mindset, a stereotype, archetype) to have pain and suffering be integral to creativity and strength oddly enough and that is evident in so many of the comments, but in actuality it does limit us, barricade us and insulate us. thanks for the insight.

  142. Having spent nearly all of my teenage years feeling tortured full of darkness and angst, I can honestly say it is only now I am more mature that I am realising I can write even without pain!

    Looking back it does seem I was a better writer when I was depressed and even now I write well when I'm feeling down but I think that is partly down to me 'opening up' in terms of my emotions more when I am low and also not being a good enough writer yet to write about much else. My aim is to improve so much so that one day I can write eloquently and interestingly about happiness and love as much as I do about sadness and heartache.

  143. Interesting post.

    I see you're interested in addiction and writing as a theme, so you might be interested in reading a novel by Knut Hamsun called Hunger (in translation, obviously!). It is a downward spiral of a book where a starving journalist in Olso is literally writing for his life, getting paid per article by his editor. It's fascinating because the man is addicted to writing as anyone else would be a drug, taking himself to the brink of death for his art.

    Let me know if you read it.

  144. in a nut shell,This is one of the best post i`ve come across

    Simply amazing,but i think that maybe pain isn`t the main reason behind art but i think it helps some times :)

    Really great article..keep it up.

  145. Visual artists are told the same thing, that great artists suffer a life of pain and endure to create beautiful art from it, but I don't buy it. I think that to be human is to experience pain. There are just as many waitresses that suffer pain and depression as there are artists. To experience pain and disappointment is a by product of life, and I agree with you that we have a choice in the burdens we choose to carry with us.

    Beautiful post, Christian.

  146. For me, my writing is a visual/artful representation of my thoughts – whether they be opinions, memories, or shared stories – and my readers are, therefore, witnesses to my life. Thanks for letting me witness yours.

  147. Your last line "…we write about the things we had and lost not because of the pain we feel, but because we wish to recapture the moments of joy…", really resonated with me. It says it all. This is why we create to capture those great moments, I paint because it is one of the times I feel closest to my mom, who passed, there is pain in her physical absences but joy in feeling her spirit. Thank you for sharing this.

  148. I agree that many of us write or do a piece of art not out of pain but out of love and wanting to share. We have this thing that we are so passionate about, be it a memory or a place–whatever–and it was, or is, so good we want to try to show it to everyone else, or tell everyone else about it. I think art is less about pain than it is generosity, a need to share.

  149. It was a pleasure to read your post. I am a 2 time cancer survivor. I have had momments of being really motivated and inspired. I have to say the feeling was generally happy. I created some of my favorite artwork. That being said, I have had some very very bad momments, especially after the second cancer. I didn't feel motivated to create…I was actually paralyzed from all my "pain" and anxiety. I was a "real artist" before I got cancer. I like to think my work would be just as good if I hadn't had the "pain" of cancer to draw upon…but I will never know as these are the cards I have been dealt. Please keep writing…good stuff.

  150. You just saved me from my own thought that surfaced only moments before— I was looking through my old journals and found my last entry was more than a year ago—which reminded me that I haven’t been upset in a while—which led to: who has ever heard of a happy writer? Which led to: what do happy writers write? In my next breath came my sarcastic mutter— probably boring self-help books (and I’ve never been able to make it through a single one.) Anyway, after reading your post I have myself in check, knowing there are probably plenty of happy novelists out there.

  151. Life needs both sides, love-hate, life-death and so on. My goal, live in the middle! (the happy medium) Thank you for your post. Kate

  152. You know, I lost a friend recently. A good friend. I could bore you with meaningless metaphors, but I won’t. It’s a painful thing to lose a friend. And certainly, my heart hardened a bit, but that is not the only thing my heart did. My heart told me: Life is too short for bullshit, and immediately, I learned. I’ve been accused of being a somewhat curt person throughout my life, but now my heart tells me that this is right. Life is too short for many things, no? So, I must disagree with you. One can very easily learn from heartache, etc. I’m not saying that it’s a necessary, or even desirable, avenue to take in order to inspire oneself, but that it does more than merely hurt.
    An aside: everyone always talks about the tortured artist, the struggling artist, the depressive artist, the mentally ill artist as if there were nothing to be tortured about. Sh*t’s tough work, you know? Why is it a surprise that the continuous outpourings of one’s inner core might yield a highly emotional personality?

  153. I don’t think great art is the pay-off for suffering; I think art may in fact be the ANTIDOTE to suffering. Creating art may be the way we humans exorcise the tumultuous forces that live within us, that feel like they’ll tear us apart unless we type them into existence or paint them on the canvas or sing them. Perhaps the more we suffer in life, the more need we have to make art.

    There is something to be said about the divine madness that overtakes an artist when s/he has work that needs to be done. Entering into and getting out of those states of consciousness can be difficult – you search and you search for the right word or the right brush, and it’s just out of reach, and you have trouble sleeping because it’s still weighing on your mind, and you work and you work until you’ve finally finished it, and it’s like a fog has cleared from your mind and your body is sluggish because you’ve been eating crap food, haven’t showered in days, and haven’t spoken to your friends in over two weeks. And other than the creation of the art itself, there’s very little reward for it all, not in our consumer capitalist-driven society that only sees the value of things (even art) in terms of dollars and cents. Am watching a documentary about writer/poet Charles Bukowski, who worked a mind-numbing night job at the post office – a job that he loathed, that made him miserable – while writing during the day. Suffering artist indeed.

  154. I still, truly believe that one needs to feel the pain, live through it and then inspire others. Although I understand where you are coming from, the fact that one becomes toughened, allows him or her to go onto something greater and experience more. Unfortunately, if you don’t experience, you do not feel pain. And for me, if you do not feel and live through pain, your art is somewhat more short lived than others.

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