The Dark Side of Creativity

I recently finished reading a book named “BIG MAGIC” written by the very famous author Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a simple book written for creative minds with great psychologies to deal with the fear, anxieties, insecurities and the myth called perfection. It vastly talks about the mysterious nature of Inspiration. There’s one particular part that strongly stuck with me and generated a lot of questions from within.

Time and again we all including the legends have associated Creativity or the art of creating something (as the dictionary defines it) with pain, darkness, suffering, heartbreak, death and a lot many other negative feelings and emotions. One particular dialogue in a blockbuster Hindi movie said, “Toote dil se hie sangeet nikalti hai.” Which means only a broken a heart can create music. Though this line made a deep impact on me it also got me thinking that the only way to create meaningful art is through pain?

Up until the time I decided to begin writing, I had never really pondered upon this thought much. As I began writing my insecurities began as well. To add fuel to the fire a friend one day just randomly asked,”You’ve never suffered anything in life, what will you write about? You need to destroy yourself in order to create something extraordinary.” It really made me think that, do I really need to suffer in order to make my writing more substantial and honourable?

Why would I want to destroy myself for something that I love so immensely and that brings me sheer joy and happiness?  Why is it that if something is a pleasure to write, then it possibly cannot have any artistic value? The whole notion behind writing and creating art is screwed up. Older, established authors say the same dark things about their own work. I would actually like to quote a few instances from the book that proves that all artists glorified pain in order to create art and mind it all of them are well-acclaimed Novelists and playwrights.

“Norman Mailer claimed that every one of his books had killed him a little more. Phillip Roth has never stopped talking about the medieval torments writing inflicted upon him for the duration of his long-suffering career. Oscar Wilde called the artistic existence “one long, lovely suicide.” (I adore Wilde, but I have trouble seeing suicide as lovely. I have trouble seeing any of this anguish as lovely.)”

And no, this is not just the case with writers. Visual artists, actors, dancers, musicians they all feel the same. Another instance that I want to share is of musician Rufus Wainwright who had admitted that he was terrified to settle down into a happy relationship, because without the emotional drama that came from all those dysfunctional love affairs, he was afraid of losing access to “that dark lake of pain” he felt was so critical for him to create music.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the modern definition of creativity — from the youngest seeker up to the established masters — is immersed in pain, misery, and dysfunction.  But what’s the whole point of creating something that inflicts so much pain and misery in our lives? Where’s the fun in that? Putting faith in nothing but pain and suffering is a dangerous path. We all are taught to trust in darkness, I certainly was. However, I choose to drive my instincts to the opposite side– towards the light, towards play, towards laughter, towards a more cheerful engagement with creativity.

Having said all of these things, I, however, do not deny the reality of the suffering of any humankind. I just refuse to obsess over it. One may easily think a person like me who is some 25 blog posts old and has just written 25,000 words so far, what do I even know about writing or creating art. In all honesty, I LOVE WRITING, but I just cannot seek out for suffering in the name of CREATIVITY.

British Psychoanalyst Adam Phillip has correctly said-

“If the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having.”

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