Monday, March 9, 2009

Suffering for Art’s Sake


Last week during Positivity Week on Bransford’s blog, he mentioned that, as a whole, writers aren’t the happiest people in the world (I know, ironic…just read on). This made me think back to my college days when one of my Humanities professors posed a question to the class. The question was; do you think that great art comes from suffering? We talked about poor misanthropic Beethoven, eccentric Mozart, Jackson Pollack, Edgar Allen Poe and his alcohol addiction, and Coleridge and his laudanum addiction (this is when he did his best work…Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, et. al). Does true creativity come from a place of suffering? Are the greatest writers, composers and artists the most tortured of souls?

I was reading up on Keats today because I am planning on writing an HF based on his short love affair with Fanny Brawne, and I came across a quote from him that read, “'the excellence of every Art is its intensity.” He said this to a friend of his who asked him why he suffers so much over his love for Miss Brawne. Truly, Keats’ best poems were written during the time of his intense relationship with her. I find myself completely drawn, almost mesmerized, by the intensity of his letters to her. Other than Coleridge, I think Keats is the better poet of all the Romantics. He is also the one who suffered the most. Keats almost gave his life for his art, literally.

What do you guys think? Have you ever notice that your best work came from times when you were in a dark place? I certainly do as I look back over my manuscript. I’m interested in your input.

9 comments:

Cindy said...

I'd have to say...some of my best work comes from when I am the most challenged. Some days I just breeze through pages because they're easy dialogue or I already have a sense for what the characters are going to do in a scene. But when I challenge myself or write a scene or a book that is completely outside of the box for me, that's when I am at my best. That is when I have to "suffer" if you will because each word, each page is a challenge and it takes so much more out of me to get it down. Interesting topic.

Litgirl01 said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Cindy. I have always been fascinated with this, and when it came back up in my research of Keats I had to write something about it. :-)

Lady Glamis said...

I ALWAYS write the best poetry when I'm suffering. So weird how that works. Not sure about my novels, though. They seem to go on for so long that I suffer in and out during the course, and they seem to turn out pretty good in my opinion. :)

I like the "suffering" thing because it helps me explore the depths of my emotions. That way I can write characters better, I think.

Litgirl01 said...

Oh yes...poetry is the best when you have intense feelings inside.

Have you ever noticed that when you feel the feelings of your characters, it comes across to your readers? When you feel the intensity, the loss, the suffering, the happiness, the love, etc. Sometimes I have to put my manuscript down because it drains me. Like Cindy said...

scott g.f. bailey said...

Art (good art, anyway) requires vulnerability, and life is often miserable, so artists have to open themselves up to the awareness of that misery. But also to joy and love, and you can't have one without the other, I think. So maybe artists are better attuned than most folks to both the dark and the light.

Certainly (as the woman I'm seeing pointed out just last night) I'm never so happy as when I am writing, and never so miserable as when I'm stewing over things I should be writing about but am't. I write very little when I'm truly depressed. Or if I do write, I never use any of it. Then again, I don't write poetry.

Litgirl01 said...

Scott g.f. Bailey -

Great insight, and I certainly agree that art requires vulnerability. When you create something, it's like putting your heart out there.

There is a video on Lady Glamis' site that everyone should see. It's Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. If you haven't jump on over and take a look. I believe it was posted in February.

Damyanti said...

I write the best when I am boiling, roiling inside, when I'm steamed up or intense about something, or when I call up an intense memory---intensely happy or sad, does not matter.

Great to hear you intend to write about Keats, I would love to read it...Keats was, and still is, besides Pablo Neruda, my most favorite poet.

Litgirl01 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Litgirl01 said...

Damyanti, (going to try this again...lol)

Keats is one of my alltime favorite poets. And yes, one of the very best. I love Coleridge too! I stopped by your blog today...found the character sheet really helpful. Thank you! ;-)