Finding out roughly what kind of person you truly are is the starting point of self-understanding. Many years ago, I discovered that troubled writers are the people who most resemble me – or whom I most resemble. I may also be like other kinds of disturbed people, but they remain largely invisible while published writers leave behind a readable and illuminating record of their emotional and psychological struggles. My discovery, and the fact that I too wrestle with writing books and stories, prompted over two decades of reading literary biographies.
Lowry suffered from acute anxiety and had his most productive periods in a secluded squatters camp in Dollarton, British Columbia. (Photo: public domain)
Edmund Wilson, author of The Wound and the Bow, argued that suffering was the mother of creativity. But what if suffering and creativity are actually siblings? (Image: public domain.)
Some argue that creativity and genius spring from a profound sensitivity to subtle differences. Such sensitivity, such fine perception, makes possible deep and powerful art. However, it also leaves its possessor wide open to pain and damage from life’s rough and tumble course. The less sensitive miss the subtle insults, the small slights by omission, and the finer points of innuendo. The more sensitive and perceptive do not.
One is, therefore, tempted to speculate that creativity does not, as is so often assumed, come from being wounded or mad or riddled with polarities, ambivalences, and conflicts, but that these difficulties are simply another product of being sensitive. Collateral damage, as the military types would say. Inner torment is not the parent of creativity; it is its sibling.