Suffering and pain: The cornerstone of art

There is a blog of an indie author, Cristian Mihai, which I really like to follow.

In a recent blog entry he wrote about famous artists. Not artists that became rich from their art, but artists who moved people by writing books, making paintings or music pieces. The artists whose work stay with the audience for a long time after they die.

The classics.

What Cristian mentions is that most of these artists suffered. And most often, they suffered from tragic love. Somehow, that made their art amazing and memorable.

Now, here’s my problem: I’m not suffering.

I never felt that I was at the end of the road, leaning into a sink with hot water and a razor ready to cut. I never sat at the edge of a window with my feet hanging down 20 meters from the ground. I never slept on the doormat of a beloved one who didn’t even realize I exist.

I’m not a person who likes to suffer, and if I do, I don’t like to do that for very long (the time that is maybe needed to make a good art piece).

If I’m in the position where people around cause me to suffer, I first try to change that. If that doesn’t work, I leave.

If I bring myself into a position of suffering, it will probably take me a few weeks to realize it, and then I will change it.

If someone I fall in love with doesn’t realize I’m there or treats me in an undignified fashion, my suffering would last for a very short time. I show him the finger and turn my back. If he didn’t realize who I am, see who I can become for him, well – his mistake.

There is a very strong instinctive and self-preserving logic in me that picks me up from the ground, dusts me off and nudges me forward to continue walking.

So, going back to suffering and good art: what does that mean for the books I am writing?

Are they not as good because I’m not a suffering type of a person? Should I change gear and suffer a little bit more in order to make my novels more memorable?

Or maybe the suffering I had was deep enough, painful enough, to make my writing memorable, but luckily, short enough so that I could actually write about it afterwards?

The question has no answer.

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  1. Interesting point. I suppose the question is, is imagined suffering as good/useful (in the creative sense!) as actual suffering?

    I think in lots of cases the answer is yes. You can be an ally to a group of people without being part of that group ourselves.

    We can ‘think’ our way in to the heads of other people.

    I suppose what is different though is that we don’t purport to fully understand what other people go through. We can empathise, not sympathise.

    But that is where writing differs. It’s an artform, not a science.

    My two cents anyway.