TMM: Suffering

Is suffering necessary in order to create art?

Quite the question, right?

Psychologists claim writers to be some %150 more susceptible to suffer from bi-polar disorder. Also, quite a lot of famous artists suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and a bunch of other disorders.

A lot of them committed suicide.


A few years ago I wrote a post on my blog on the same topic. There I argued that Max Blecher, a little known Romanian writer, who suffered immensely during his life due to Pott’s disease, which confined him to bed from the age of 19 until his death at 29. This guy, who suffered terribly, argued in one of his novels that there were a lot of writers who had lived long, happy lives.

Maybe he wished it to be true.

Maybe it made me reconsider the whole point of suffering.

What I can say now, some five years later, is that being great at something (whether it’s art, sport, business) requires the kind of dedication that doesn’t make much sense. To most people, life is a balancing act. You want to earn money, have a social life, find love, travel, enjoy some alone time, maybe create some art, play some sports… but truth is, if you want to be great at something, you have to dedicate your life to it. Sacrifice everything else for it.

The kind of dedication that turns you into a monk.

Does that make sense? Does it sound normal? No. It’s not. But if you have a terrible life, you are poor, ugly, and socially inept, what else can you do?

I feel this is an oversimplification of course, but there quite a bit of truth to it. When there’s nothing else to do, you dedicate yourself to your art. It’s your way of escaping the hell that surrounds you. It’s your way of finding purpose. Maybe the broken are the only ones who choose to dedicate themselves to art, in which case correlation does not imply causality.

Anyone could become a great artist if they were willing to sacrifice 10-12 hours a day to bettering themselves. After all, art is not this esoteric, offered by the gods kind of thing, but rather a craft. And any craft can be learned. It just takes a huge volume of work until you become truly good.


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