For me, the answer to the question I’m about to ask is yes. I make no apologies for that, but I don’t believe it applies to everyone. I even admit my answer may become “no” someday. This will be among my shorter entries; I have little enough to say for now.
So: does emotional turmoil and private pain make for better art?
In the ongoing quest to protect people with mental health issues from harmful social ideas, a number of people have piled onto the idea of the depressive artist. Their mission: tear it down and burn the tatters. Don’t misunderstand me, the cult-like mentality surrounding the idea of starving, desperate artists is among the most toxic stereotypes in any field. I think expecting artists to fuel their work with pain is–aside from so edgy it’d be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic–among the most destructive habits of society as whole.
Assigning legitimacy and art-cred based on how much someone cut themselves while working on a piece (I’m exaggerating. I hope.) is absurd and inhuman. That does need to stop. But…
Some artists just have painful lives. And when that’s what life has for you, you learn to work from it. Perhaps my work would be better if it were fueled by happiness, but I doubt it. And, with respect, I know myself better than you do. I despise the idea of pushing other people to bask in misery just so they’ll write a better tune or paint more beautifully. I don’t want any person to go through the countless scraping, futile hours I have to achieve my skill.
But if, after writing ever more intensively since I was six, I haven’t learned to critically evaluate my work, there’s no hope for me as a writer. So believe me, I speak the only truth I know when I say every great idea, rattling turn of phrase and beautiful image I’ve ever produced was written in my own blood. I would not be remotely so competent, so driven or so passionate about my work without the battles I’ve fought within. If you’ve enjoyed a single sentence on this blog, I tell you this: don’t thank my happiness for it.
I know you mean well, but the sunlight you’re forcing into my room has thrown off the color balance and it’s washed all the depth out along with the shadows. Please leave the sun in the sky where it belongs, and put my guttering torches back while you’re at it.