“We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it.” – Ernest Hemingway
While we’d all like to think differently, Hemingway in this quote defines a truth of the creative process. I’m sure there are some creatives who haven’t been crushed by life, or bullied by circumstance, but I’d venture to say they are in the minority. The majority of us who create have have felt the weight of destruction at some time and in some place.
Pain however, doesn’t need to be fruitless. Besides the growth you may find in your life from struggle, it also informs and gives gravity to the work you can create. Personal tragedy can become the fodder for good art.
Suffering is among the few truly universal things in life. It’s why when art reflects the pain and tragedy of real life we can relate to it in a deeper and more meaningful way than if it was as painless as Dick and Jane. With the gravity of real life, or at least the reality of suffering, art means more because the stakes are ones we know in our own lives. Pain offers a subject to talk about, a place to understand a part of the world and how it works.
Admittedly, the best writing I have ever perpetrated has always come after a set-back, after a failure or disappointment in my career or personal life. It’s not a pleasant truth, but it is a truth none-the less. I think it’s because I’m more driven to say something meaningful in those moments, and say it with less censor.
Instead of merely accepting the hurt as a wound, I use it as inspiration. It revealed a part of the world to me I may not have seen or remembered, and I use the writing to share whatever I’ve gleaned from the experience with others.
Hurt happens. Our world will never be perfect and we will never avoid all suffering, but we can redeem it. Art, the creative expression, offers the opportunity to make something of use and value out of the hurt and harm endured. Instead of burying the pain and letting it infect you with misery and apathy, try using it to make good art.
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