Does emotional suffering make you a better artist?

What caused the trope of the tortured, lonely, depressed artist? Is there any merit to this applied stereotype? Proposed by countless academic studies, it’s possible that this clichéd representation is not entirely unfounded. If this is the case, could it be that human suffering in general is conducive to an artist’s creativity?

Approaching this from a subjective point of view, I’ve witnessed the correlation between art and malcontent in select friends, family, and acquaintances—writers, musicians, directors, and artists. All of these people, from their admitted perspective and my own, have created some of their greatest work in the deepest or highest points of their personal torment. Even from my own experience, my best creations have been born in the darkest, most cobwebbed version of my mind.

And so I am lead to question: is Art made better when created in a state of emotional disturbance? Is a mind content able to produce the same level of artistic achievement compared to its sharper or darker counter-states?

I’m not suggesting that anyone seriously suffering avoid required clinical intervention for the sake of Art: to do so would be irresponsible and has been made example of by the tragic fates of Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Van Gogh.

But I’m addressing the idea that, for those living in a state of mania, sadness, or distress, perhaps their Art is made more real and honest because of the emotional and mental catharsis it has to provide. When you’re confined by the burden of your own mind, writing, painting, and composing allows an escape; the result may be messy, confronting, and raw, but it can also be inspiration at its most visceral level.

Einstein may have said that “creativity is intelligence having fun,” but I might counter that in some cases, creativity is the mind’s attempt to swim amidst a blackness that might otherwise drown it. And it is this very desperation that can be capable of creating the most unrestricted brilliance when let across instrument, paper, or canvas.

If you think you may be suffering from mental illness, please contact Beyond Blue online or via phone @ 1300 22 4636.

editor