This morning I found myself watching Sex and the City. It got me to thinking; do we, as artists, writers and creators need to suffer for our art to be truly great?
I ask this because, when you think about it, the greatest works of history, the greatest works of our time were all created when the artist or writer was at their lowest ebb. Take J K Rowling for instance. She was living in a council flat, newly divorced and surviving on benefits when she first wrote Harry Potter. Now she is a multi-millionaire with a happy marriage and a successful writing career. Virginia Wolfe struggled with depression for much of her adult life, eventually taking her own life but during her weakest moments she wrote some wonderful novels and even established a printing press to get them out to the public. Vincent Van Gogh was a great painter, ranging from realism to surrealism and everything in between but his personal life was a shambles with several failed relationships and one break up so devastating he went so far as to cut off his ear. J R R Tolkien took his experiences in the trenches of World War 1, the horror, the atrocities and the camaraderie and turned it into what is possibly one of the greatest works of the 20th Century, the Lord of the Rings.
So, the question is, do modern writers and artists truly need to suffer great emotional upheaval to create great works? Or is that now a thing of the past? Is it the emotional trauma that pushes us to reach our true potential? When I’m writing or drawing I can feel that there is more there, something more than what I can do. And yet it won’t come out. It’s as though there’s a door blocking the way and I don’t have the key. I can’t help but wonder if maybe the key is emotional suffering, that I need something to shake me to my core in order for me to break through this door and create that which I’m truly capable of. Or it may simply be wishful thinking on my part, who knows.
What do you think?