Why am I compelled to write?… Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing. â€• Gloria E. AnzaldÃºa
There’s this myth of the suffering artist. It seems to make the claim that artists suffer more. I don’t think that’s true. All people suffer. It’s just that sometimes artists try to make something visible out of that suffering.
And it’s in these places of pain that we find who we really are. We see ourselves with all our masks peeled away, all our facades shattered, all our fake smiles toothless. Here, in suffering, we are our most real.
When considering the pages he wrote in A Grief Observed, the book he penned after his wife died of cancer, C.S. Lewis said, “Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” Of course, he was wrong. His “senseless writings” became the book my dad clung to when Mom died, and it is the space where many have found mirrors and comfort for their own pain. It was his suffering surely – and suffering he did, indeed, have to endure. Yet, he did more than just bear it – he turned it into art.
So, friends who suffer – by that I mean, each of you – write from that suffering. Paint in your pain. Dance until your muscles ache like your heart. Sing the rawness into your very throat. Pour out pages of words until it feels you’ve bled yourself dry. Then, do it again tomorrow.
For out of suffering comes redemption. I believe that. There will always be pain. We will always suffer, but there is greatness and grace that comes from it. Some of it captured in ink.
How has suffering spurred you to art? What art comes to mind when you think of the suffering artist?