Suffering and Creativity

Claudia Barbosa, Pexels

Just hit up Google and you’ll find a million articles insisting that suffering and creativity go hand in hand. I know a lot of people disagree with this notion, but really, there are many examples of when someone under great duress created their masterpiece. Immediately, I think of the Russians, as they seem always to be most filled with good ideas when they’re facing 25 years in a Siberian gulag. Think Dostoevsky. Think Solzhenitzyn. There’s something about the death of everything in the winter that makes things grow in the Russian soul. The winter doesn’t do this for me, despite my love for Russia and snow I don’t have to drive in. But the heat of the summer does give me a burst of irritation that forces me to find some way to calm down. From there, springs colors, patterns, designs, ideas, dreams of making a future doing what I love most, and I don’t know why this is, because I hate the humidity of the Northeast. I do love the lushness it brings, however, and that’s inspiring. Maybe it’s the purple and white wildflowers dotting the sheep farm next door, or maybe, it’s that I’m already dreaming of the golden-red-brown leaves of autumn.

Of course, for as many stories as there are about how people are moved by their distresses, there must be many more that say the opposite. Being homeless is not what I’m talking about. Dying of cancer is not what I’m talking about. Sometimes, when Mysasthenia Gravis is its worst, I can’t physically do anything. I can’t even sit up without support. So, I know plenty of people who simply cannot work when they’re stressed out. I spent more than two decades as a freelance writer. Perhaps, it was that addiction to the deadline that makes being uncomfortable a muse for me. Hemingway said that one needed to keep a bit of hunger inside them in order to be creative, and I find that I agree with that. Whenever I have the day off and nothing to do, it’s sometimes difficult to move myself towards creativity. I need a plan of action. I need a goal. I need another rung on the latter, so that I can move a little closer toward the great project.

What works for you? Are you the most creative when you’re faced with a job loss or a breakup? Do you write poetry during times of political unrest? Do you hear music when you’re sad? I know that, rain or shine, I knit or crochet every morning with a cup of strong coffee (or two). I may not always watch the news, I may not always sit on the porch swing, I may not always eat breakfast, but I always have a hook or a needle in my hand. It’s one of my great methods of prayer. That and walking bring me closest to God on a daily basis. The movement of my fingers is kind of a sign language of gratefulness, and when the times are dark or too hot or confusing, I work out a new pattern of my own design. I let my heart speak to my brain and make those synaptic connections into creativity. For me, suffering does propel me to greater work. A little hunger is a good thing. I press on with it. What do you do?

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