When the abyss gazes back

A painter can paint without a brush.

A writer can write without a pen.

But take away their suffering and they’ll both be paralyzed, inside-out.

Maybe it’s what wasting your talent, genius and creativity mean — that you haven’t suffered enough. When I started writing, I never got what the superstition around suffering was all about, a forboding of my complete lack of preparedness for the undertaking.

I don’t want to add to the romanticization of suffering and sordidity in art. That rabbit hole is already clogged with some crazy shit. When I began, I told myself I wouldn’t go down that path.

So, over time, as writing got harder, truer, I clung on to my old ideals of making writing look easy, even fun. I tried very hard not to suffer. And I forced myself to feel happy when I wrote.

That was so hard I just should’ve suffered the normal way.

Suffering is not the throbbing physical pain or mental agony as it’s made out to be. It’s not the incurable anxiety-induced despair every time you begin. Okay, maybe a little, but that’s not it. And it sure as heck is not the precondition to make art: the “I feel like shit if I don’t feel like shit” syndrome that’s come to tyrannize creativity.

Suffering has a glimmer of enlightenment to it. A curious slim path into a whole new world. It is hard because it is paved with truths you would’ve otherwise never confronted if not for your art. The loneliness you feel is not your self-conscious solitary confinement to your desk and pathologies. The loneliness is the acceptance that no one sees the world you see.

It’s discovering beauty and realizing you will never be able to share any of it. What you share is the mirage, a mental thirst quencher. That’s what makes the art-suffering relationship complicated. It’s kinda like every other relationship, except the quality of masochism in art is pure.

It’s not a necessary or a sufficient condition, suffering. It is not a heroic journey where you take one for humanity. It is, as most dumb conclusions go, a choice. And what makes this one different is you make it for you and no one else.

When your art becomes something someone else wants more than you do is when you begin to suffer. When you ignore all the truths calling out to you is when the suffering continues. And when you want to put an end to this, this sham you call suffering, you only suffer more.

When the seeker disappears for the seeking there’s a joy too impossible to describe. Suffering is a name for that impossibility.



Posted in Art

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