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Is Misery is My Only Muse?   Leave a comment

I find I make my best work when I’m absolutely miserable.

It seems that the best way for me to break down the walls made of my writer’s blocks is with the good ol’ sledge hammer of sadness. While that can be a great boost for my creativity, it’s hard to be happy about it.

Since, by definition, I can’t be happy.

I posted earlier this week about how I’ve been suffering from writer’s block. As I look back, I realize I was suffering from it because I was happy with my life. Not completely content, not even close to it. But enough to be momentarily happy, which is a healthy step in the right direction when it comes to my mental health.

But, although very positive for my sanity, it killed my productivity and creativity. I would stare at my screen and nothing would come to mind. I’d start thinking about all the other things I could be doing, like playing games, watching Netflix, etc. It would go like that for days, and I was starting to get frustrated with it. But I was content with everything else in my life, so it wasn’t getting me too down.

But, after I posted the aforementioned lack-luster post, I started to feel bad. Sure, I hit the first half of my posting goal for the week, but in a very shoddy, half-assed way. Next, I started to feel bad about my life, my future, my work, etc. Then, bad about me in general, with all of the fun, positive, life affirming stuff one thinks about while depressed.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, my mind lights up with ideas. I felt the overwhelming urge to write down all my thoughts. I started off with writing about my sadness itself, but once the flow is started, it all just comes out. All the things I couldn’t write before, I was able to write down clearer and better than before. Because of this onslaught of inspiration, I ended up writing 3 poems and making a heavy dent on all of the posts I couldn’t finish.

Now, as I take a step back and look at what I accomplished, I feel happy about my writing. Which leaves me feeling contented. Which will make it harder to write next time, which will make me more miserable, and…

It is quite a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

I’ve only really started noticing it after I started writing this blog, but it’s been an undercurrent of my creative process my whole life. I can’t write a song about how I love my daughter while I’m enjoying my weekend with her. I have to be missing her voice after weeks of distance. I can’t write a poem about happiness or love, but I can write about no longer feeling happy or losing love. My best work comes from my misery.

So, is misery my only muse? No, but it’s probably the most effective one I have right now. Love, happiness, creativity, etc. are nice, and I love inspiration from the sources.But I don’t think anything will ever be quite as powerful, or get me going quite like my own suffering.

Plus, I can’t be the only artist who creates like this, right? Many great artists had a similar muse. I may never be as talented as Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gough, Sylvia Plath, or Edgar Allen Poe, but being tortured artists worked for them, and many would argue that is what made them great.

Plus, they all turned out happy and famous, right?

-Shaman

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