TMM: 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?

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4 thoughts on “TMM: Struggling Artists and Pain

  1. Whether illness, tragedy, war, or physical or emotional trauma, human emotions and attitudes are affected by all of these. Drawing out into engaging stories or images, the most authentic artists, authors and thinkers can capture these. I think being “authentic” is key. And an ear for how people talk with one another.

  2. My wife and I went to hear Jewel sing last night. I knew who she was, even a little about her, what I didn’t realize was the voyage she’d taken to get to the stage where I could hear her sing. There were little things like the fact she was once homeless, that she’d almost died because she couldn’t afford medical care (and if hadn’t been for a doc that bent the rules, she probably would have), or she had to shop lift carrots and nuts just to have something to eat. What was really funny was when she was “Discovered”, she had all these record companies courting her, and she still didn’t have an address.
    So you have to suffer to be good? No, but then it makes what you write, or sing so much more interesting.

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