Friday Tips: Suffering

(Note: excerpted from Artist’s Life) 


Contrary to a commonly held notion, we as artists do not suffer more than other people.  There is so much unspeakable suffering in the world—from famine, war, and rampant disease—that many of us in the industrialized nations don’t even know the meaning of true suffering, including me.  I’m not saying that artists don’t have it tough in their way, I’m just trying to put things in perspective.

However, even if we do not suffer more than others, we do tend to feel things more deeply.  This, combined with our inordinate sensitivities, seems to make the suffering more intense.  Couple that with the usual insecurities, spells of depression, and years of rejection, and baby you’ve got one suffering artist.  Or to quote good old Scott Fitzgerald: “…There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pinprick, but wounds still.  The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye…”

He wasn’t lying either, since that dude suffered greatly—not necessarily because of what he went through, but because of how he took it.  His wife Zelda too for that matter, although some claim that by the time she died, in that horrible fire in the asylum in Ashville, that she didn’t feel those kinds of things anymore.  Maybe she didn’t, but I’d hate to be the one to speculate on the nature of her emotional state when the flames finally reached her.

Will you suffer?  As surely as you eat, drink and breathe.  Will your work benefit from it?  If you choose for it to.  Is this a necessary condition of being an artist?  I don’t know about ‘necessary,’ but I can say that it’s a common condition of our existence. 

All right, so we suffer.  But by God, we know how to live too.  And by we I don’t mean just artists, but anyone who lives sensually, and through the power of their creativity—whether in the art world or the corporate world.  Few people are given the gift to live in this way, few people are able to feel so fully alive between the spells of suffering.  That suffering is merely a part of the price you pay for your talent, and since you have to pay it anyway, I advise you pay willingly.  The alternative is to live an unenlightened existence.  I ask you, isn’t that a common enough condition already?  And aren’t you glad it isn’t yours?


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