Creativity Without Torture

Creativity Without Torture

big magic

Are you bought into the ubiquity of the suffering artist, whose creativity is best birthed in anguish?

In her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

“If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”

One of Gilbert’s most insightful threads across this book is the de-romanticizing of the suffering, ever-tortured artist. The best work, she asserts, cannot be unleashed if we’re constantly in torment.

As a former self-torturer, I find that so freeing. I can be a responsible parent, partner, and working professional…AND write decent stuff. What a concept!

(I still love you, Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. I just don’t want to be you.)