Creativity Doesn’t Need Your Pain

Today I read a piece on Brain Pickings (which, despite its awful name is full of interesting philosophical essays), about the loneliness of creative work.

And while I love the writers referenced in the piece — Rachel Carson, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway — this particular essay pissed me off.

The idea that creative work has to be lonely to be valid is a lot like the idea that creative work requires you to suffer.

It’s just bullshit, and it makes me angry because it scares people off exploring their creativity for fear of what it will do to them.

Creative work is often solitary, it’s often hard, but it’s not some Faustian bargain. You don’t lose your creative gifts if you choose to practice them in company, or if you decide that you’re not going to turn yourself inside out over it.

Yes, there are certainly many creative people who are lonely and suffering, but that is not because they are creative. It’s because they’re human.

And yes, part of being human is often being uncomfortable in our own company or startled by what comes out of us.

But this is true for everyone, ‘creative’ or not. And ultimately, what makes you ‘creative’ is a simple willingness to make stuff.

Creativity is the basic human impulse — it’s how we make ourselves mean something. We’ve been creating stuff since time immemorial, whether it was paintings on a cave wall, decorative clothing or songs.

Far from being lonely, creativity fundamentally connects us to each other. It is the outward expression of our inner experiences, and by choosing to create anything, you are inviting others to recognise your humanity.

So please, reject this nonsense that creativity is some scary, isolating burden.

It’s not: it’s a gift — a lighthouse, a life raft, a lantern in the dark.

However it expresses itself, and whether it looks like traditional creativity or not, creativity is the lifeline that tethers you to what’s precious in your life.

Embrace it. I bet you’ll find that it connects you profoundly to other people, and frees you from what’s been making you suffer.