Pain shut off my creative spark. I didn’t have the faintest glow. Not even a hint of warmth, never mind sparkle. So, I got to thinking where does creativity come from? And where has it gone now that I’m battling this CRPS diagnosis?
How can we measure suffering?
Doctors usually ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. What I’m looking for is proof that there’s a connection between pain and creativity so I can understand why my light went out temporarily.
Doctor Joy Madden who’s the self development editor for Bella online says that, actually, we might need suffering because it can have a positive effect on our creativity.
(Not mine, Doctor Joy)
Indeed, her article goes on to say, and I quote: “Some of the most famous creative works have been accomplished when experiencing the greatest pain.”
In Pain and the Creative Process, author K. Ferlic says:
“Although pain is not inherent to the creative process, it is integrally tied to the creative process as performed by humans because of how we create our experiences. Pain and the creative process are related in several different ways.”
Similarly, in Pain and suffering and developing creativity,
Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D., a psychologist specializing in creative artist issues, says “Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conflicts or let go of suffering…”
(Oh, double dear)
It seems to me that in articles such as these they’re talking about the need to have experienced pain of depression, loss, longing and desire to fire up the creative processes.
I’m not talking about the ‘tortured’ artist who creates on the agony in every brush stroke or word of what it felt like to be dumped by her precious ‘other’. I think it’s only common sense to see that if you want to write about heartbreak, it helps if you had it yourself at one time.
I’m talking about having CRPS right now.
It hurts. It really hurts. Now. And now. And NOW. Over and over like Groundhog Day.
‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken,’ mine tells me. ‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken. Tell your arm your wrist just got broken. Tell your elbow your wrist just got broken. Tell your shoulder your wrist just got broken. We’re all broken. NOW. Broken. BROKEN.’
You get the picture. But other people don’t. They’re so happy to see you out and about they slap you on the shoulder or they rub your arm and don’t realise they’re putting you through agony. I try to anticipate and turn to the side but I’m never quite quick enough.
Chronic pain is tiring. Exhausting. Medication gives you nausea on top of everything else you’re putting up with. You can’t sleep so you’re even more fatigued. You begin to avoid going to places where people will rub your arm and tell you they’re glad you’re all better now. And, yes, from time to time you get a little depressed.
With all of the above going on, how could anybody find the energy to be creative?
So where do ideas come from?
Read Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on this. I like his thinking. I like the reference to daydreaming. I like how he says ideas come often when you’re doing something else.
But, when you’re in real, excruciating pain, right now this second, you don’t do something else; you don’t do daydreaming. You’re not relaxed enough for those things. All you can do is try to cope with your pain and get through the day, the hour. When you are relaxed it’s because medication got you there and you probably wouldn’t even remember how to write a shopping list in the state you’re in, never mind write the next five thousand words.
I found I could edit, though. I could look at what I’d already written and reshape it, get it ready for publication. So there is a positive to come out of it. Maybe without the enforced limitations on my capabilities I might never have got around to editing Patterns of Our Lives. I’m pleased and proud it’s out there and selling.
But, don’t tell me pain is conducive to creative arts. It only works in the past tense.