Big Magic digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering.
The Teaching of Pain
Far too many creative people have been taught to distrust pleasure and to put their faith in struggle alone. Too many artists still believe that anguish is the only truly authentical emotional experience. They could have picked up this dark idea anywhere; it’s a commonly held belief here in the Western World, what with our weighty emotional heritage of Christian sacrifice and German Romanticism–both of which give excessive credence to the merits of agony.
Trusting in nothing but suffering is a dangerous path, though. Suffering has a reputation for killing off artists, for one thing. But even when it doesn’t kill them, an addiction to pain can sometimes throw artists into such severe mental disorder that they stop working at all.
Perhaps you, too, were taught to trust in darkness.
The lure of the Tormented Artist
If you are the Tormented Artist, after all, then you have an excuse for treating your romatinc partners badly, for treating yourself badly, for treating your children badly, for treating everyone badly. You are allowed to be demanding, arrogant, rude, cruel, antisocial, grandiose, explosive, moody, manipulative, irresponsible, and/or selfish. You can drink all day and fight all night. If you behaved this badly as a janitor or a pharmacist, people would rightfully call you out as a jackass. But as the Tormented Artist, you get a pass, because you’re special. Because you’re sensitive and creative. Because sometimes you make pretty things.
I don’t buy it. I believe you can live a creative live and still make an effort to be a basically decent person. I’m with the British psychoanalist Adam Phillips on this point, when he observes: “If the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having.”
My desire to work–my desire to engage with my creativity as intimately and as freely as possible–is my strongest personal incentive to fight back against pain, by any means necessary, and to fashion a life for myself that is as sane and healthy and stable as it can possibly be.
But that’s only because of what I have chosen to trust, which is quite simply: love.
Love over suffering, always.
Is this delusional?
Is it delusional of me to place infinite trust in a force that I cannot see, touch or prove–a force that might not even actually exist?
Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s call it totally delusional.
But is it any more delusional that believing that only your suffering and your pain are authentic? Or that you are alone–that you have no relationship whatsoever with the universe that created you? Or that you have been singled out by destiny as specially cursed? Or that your talents were given to you for the mere purpose of destroying you?
What I’m saying is this: If you’re going to live your life based on delusions (and you are, because we all do), then why not at least select a delusion that is helpful?
Allow me to suggest this one:
The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.
Complement Big Magic with 4 Strategies For Completing The Ideal Apprenticeship.