Suffering, Love, and Creativity


I don’t think I suffer more than average. When I find the enthusiasm to write about myself, I’ll include those painful and dark times from my past, along with the many good ones. I will be unable to link any of it to my creativity because I see no connection.

WebI do believe that to a degree, suffering is optional. I’ve seen people suffer unnecessarily, and I’ve seen those same people get over it.

In my blog tagline, I intend rain as a metaphor for my dark side, but it could also be for pain, suffering, or difficulty in life. The reaching for the sky is either embracing our human dark side or recovering from painful times. Such painful times often come with lessons making them valuable.

Until I read Big Magic, I gave little thought to suffering’s association with creativity, talent, and giftedness. I thought Elizabeth Gilbert’s treatment of the topic was a bit condescending (maybe it’s not). Perhaps it’s me, but telling alcoholics (or drug addicts) to get over it has limited success. On the other hand, many alcoholics told me that the painful consequences handed them by life at the bottom was motivation to recover.

suffering6I think that what Liz bemoans is using suffering as justification to be creative, talented, or gifted, thus making an excuse for hanging on to the bottom. We shouldn’t suffer just because we think it improves our work. I’m concerned because I know people die on the bottom. I’ve experienced great things from living artists, suffering or not – nothing from the dead ones.

I don’t take the relationship between our creativity and suffering too seriously, but I am less apt to dismiss it as some others may do. Conversely, I believe talented people do not need to suffer to be talented or creative. I am a happy guy who loves dark poetry, stories, and the dark side of human nature. Following my review of a memoir recently, I told the author “This is a sad story. Your job is to make me cry.” I’m advocating emotional writing, not suffering, hers or mine.

I avoid pain and consider that normal. Just ask my nurses when I’m having surgery — higher is better. And don’t even talk to me about my dental appointments.


While researching this topic, I discovered that I’m not the only person who finds this subject interesting. The available resources on the topic are sufficient for a doctoral dissertation, followed by two books.

I found this link to a blog (here) and a video of a talk (here), both involving Sharon Salzberg. Both are pretty good and not too long (the video excerpt relates to happiness and creativity).

And who does not love this song by Don McLean? It certainly relates to suffering and art.


I also found a site (here) with a collection of information on this and associated topics. It links with other sites and pages for developing creativity and personal growth. Be sure to check it out if you’re interested in any challenges to a creative life.

“Creative artists are fifth in the top 10 professions with high rates of depressive illness. But does depression attract them to the job? Or does the job make them depressed?” “…the reality for the sufferer is that depression is so debilitating it’s impossible to create anything at all.” ~ Helienne Lindvall

suffer6To love what you do, and the love of doing it, even when it is gruelingly difficult (and maybe more so when it is) may be the answer. What I’ve read seems to recommend this. Love your art! Do it for the love of the work, the art, the creativity, the experience. As Stephen King says, do it for the “buzz.”

The concept of a reciprocal relationship with our art was also introduced to me in Big Magic. Doing the art because we love it and love the act of doing it, despite the challenges is one thing. The idea that our art can love us back took me some pondering. Liz Gilbert says “why not?” I’m on board with her. Why not? Maybe not always and forever (although our art will likely outlive us), but at least sometimes.

Gilbert balks at calling our work of art our ‘baby,’ but this seems totally normal to me and many others. We don’t equate art to human babies. But it does vocalize the love we may have for our hard work, often more than nine months worth.

From "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon
From “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon provides two excellent graphic depictions. One describes the challenges and difficult process of creating from an idea. The other depicts that love relationship we have with our creations.

From "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon
From “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon

May you be lucky in your love with people and with your work. As Austin says, “Do good work and share it with people.”

Have a wonderful weekend and be happily creative to your heart’s content.

Whatever works for you
Whatever works for you

Creativity: Human Trait or Magic

Big Magic1I’ve been trying to figure out how to review Elizabeth Gilbert’s book. Developing a plan for a contrary opinion of Big Magic is like trying to figure out how to swim upstream against hordes of powerful whales and others going against me. The book has an 89% four/five-star approval on Amazon. The high praise of editorial reviews includes: #1 Globe best seller, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Harper’s Bazaar, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Associated Press, Yahoo, Seattle Times, USA Today, Vanity Fair, O Magazine, San Antonio Express News, and a few of my friends.

Ms. Gilbert is a ‘rock star’ author who has had big success (Eat, Pray, Love). I have no right, nor the credentials, to discredit her or her writing in any way. Nor do I want to. In fact, if you are a person whose creativity suffers due to your personal fear, this may be a good book for you. It is an easy read with no back matter such as extensive endnotes or research to distract you. The language is very simple and you’ll not need to look-up anything. She makes it all very clear and elementary, which I like.

If you are interested in marketing, check this out. This book is, in my opinion (and that of several others), a marvel of marketing – this baby was sold! Before I expose my dark side, I want to say a few more positive things about this book. For whatever reason, I’m glad that I read Big Magic and I may even read it again.

Big Magic2

For a while, I thought that I would like to forget it and move on with my life. I tried, but Big Magic won’t let me. I finished it weeks ago. Now, it refuses to go away. Why? Well, Big Magic was recommended by fellow writers, friends, and (like Elizabeth) creative people. I’m certain that my friends and Elizabeth each have hundreds of ideas, inspirations, and creative moments to my one. I think that is fine. Big Magic notwithstanding, I can only do one thing at a time.

Originally, my only purpose in writing a review was to get Ms. Gilbert and her damn book out of my thoughts so that I can do whatever I want without thinking more about it. But this is personal. Like many others, I am interested in creativity and often wonder why I have an issue with mine. Books like this usually apply to the author’s life experiences and Gilbert’s is no exception.

Like many (or most) people, I’ve struggled with creativity in that ideas don’t seem to just come to me. But they do come. Sometimes I seem to have them. At other times, they are handed to me by other human beings. When I was still working at my 8-to-5 day-job, I liked what I call ‘idea men’ (women too, but in my world there were few females). These folks were very good at concocting thoughts of better ways or solutions to problems. Often, it was good stuff. It was their strength. I enjoyed setting things in motion to accomplish the good ideas of others.

76876-duendeIn trying to figure out how to handle reviewing her book, I’ve decided not to. Instead, I plan to write several blogs on creativity and associated aspects of that human phenomenon, paying special attention to writing, my own issues, and my point of view. I also plan to add other books and input from others to the mix. If you have suggestions or input, please add your comment.