I've been reading a book about cliches all this week and there seem to be a mighty number for artists/writers related to the person in question suffering for their vocation.
In short, the perceived wisdom is that the more you suffer --- the better the work you produce.
W.B. Yeats, for example, was never spectacularly lucky in love but surely it moved him to write some of his very best poetry...
How much pain would you be willing to endure to write that masterpiece you have always dreamt of?
Sometimes we have to have the pain in order to be healed, the healing comes from releasing it. So in regards to the question I guess maybe the longer you hold the pain in before releasing out would make better of the masterpiece! ? I think that makes sense!
There are also many artists who didn't suffer who made great art, most likley more of them than that truly suffered though I've not assembled a count (and what counts as "enough" pain to qualify as meaningful?). These are people who study great art, read deeply and across many spectrums of knowledge, have the power of keen observation, who wrestle with opposing philosophies and otherwise apply discipline to their education and craft.
I would not select misery on the assumption that somehow I will come out purified, the mettle of my writer's blade somehow strengthed in the fire of pain. That seems over-simplistic to me, and ignores the reality of some of the greatest literary and artistic minds.
I strongly dispute that suffering is necessary to the creative process - this is bul##it that is within western culture accumulated from centuries of christianity and its insistence that we are born sinners, then get into the cycle of desire, satisfaction, guilt. It is my opinion that this is one of hte main differences between the miserable and self-centred, almost self-abusing mindset of western cultures.
From my travels around the world and now my close relationship with Chinese people I don't see this fragmented and fractured view of oneself - except in christian based cultures.
I look at the work of many poets as so much rolling around in the excrement of their own fractured personalities; it seems deep and meaningful when in fact it is just expressing their own introverted pain. Having said that the emotion that comes with suffering can spark ideas and thoughts, however these are of limited value to everyone else.
The cliche here is that great art comes from suffering. And I just don't see that it has to be that way or is always that way. I think great art comes from all kinds of places - it comes from suffering and expressing it, but also comes from comfort and expressing that. I wouldn't want to limit myself to any one general area of emotional content because that would limit my art. I don't think we need to suffer in order to make art, but just that most humans, artists or otherwise, do suffer to some extent. I don't know why we seem drawn to sensational stuff - suffering, pain, war - and why we make such a big deal out of it, when there is just as much joy, beauty, calm peace, tenderness, and compassion in the world. It just depends on where you're looking, what you're looking for. I've seen that some people's suffering severely limited them and the art they produced. We tend to elevate artists who have sad lives with lots of pain and trials - but I don't know why that should be. Art comes from everywhere and if we want to appreciate it we can just look around with open eyes.
So no, I wouldn't suffer extreme pain to write a masterpiece, because I don't think that would make the masterpiece come easily - maybe it would if the masterpiece is about suffering! But I find it very difficult to write about suffering and don't see why I should - there's enough in the world, I'd rather bring laughter, beauty and knowledge (this coming from the one who's poetry is often sad - but not all about suffering) Hell, I don't know that I would want to write a masterpiece since what most people think of as a masterpiece wouldn't be my idea of one.
I am not so sure that a conception of pain and suffering being linked to good art and writing is the fault of organised religion and just as there are some people who want to turn every topic into a seminar about religion, I think there are some who would like to pin the blame for everything which goes wrong in the world at organised religion's door.
The question which I asked originally was a little tongue-in-cheek although I now realise that the word I probably should have used instead of "pain" was "loss." Do you not think though it is our own experience of loss which enables us to fully appreciate love and happiness and the better things in life? or to paraphrase another cliche...
"you don't know what you've got til you lose it."
It was Shakespeare's Prince Hal (In the Henry iv parts 1 and 2 and v trilogy) who explained his own withdrawal from society and only very rare public appearances by saying that people have a greater apprecaition for beautiful fine weather after the storm and the rain and that if the sun shone all the time, it would start to lose its value and appeal and we would take it for granted...
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