Are the Most Creative People Tortured Souls?

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Article by Wendy McCance

I have always been of the belief that the best art comes from the most troubled souls.  Still bingeing on Fleetwood Mac music and reading up on their story confirms my thoughts on this subject.  Creative people with more tortured souls equal a more brilliant artistic endeavor.

Fleetwood Mac had their biggest musical success while making Rumours.  During that time, they went through their worst experiences as a group.  Drug use, romantic breakups and fighting amongst the members of the band was rampant. Yet, they still were able to collaborate and make the most notable album of their career.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people out there who believe that what I am saying is nonsense.  That great accomplishments can be had without experiencing pain, depression, loneliness or frustration.  Even if I was to point out that Van Gogh suffered from seizures, addiction and anxiety or that Jim Morrison was lonely, frustrated and had addiction problems of his own might not sway you.  The list of artists that I could mention would be incredibly long.  But the list would also be filled with the most talented creative people the world has known.

I have my own frustrations.  When I began my blog over a year ago, I was in a horrible place.  I had deep depression and my view of the future was almost too painful to bear.  But, the writing flowed and the ideas were endless.

As time passed, the depression lifted and the happiness once again took over my life.  All was well and good except for the writing.  It became more forced as the topics ran dry.  Each entry did little to impress me.  My writing became words on a page without the substance I had craved and received in my unfortunate earlier state.

These days, I actually get excited when I am worked up and out of sorts.  It is still the best time for me to write.  Ideas flood into my head that had not been present until the rough patch I am going through draws it out.

I don’t know why it is so difficult to write a deep, substantial piece as a happy and content person.  Somehow I just can’t reach those raw emotions.  I don’t see the ironic moments and I feel that I have little if any story to be told.  It’s those moments when the world flips upside-down and humanity is brought into question that I can piece together those deep feelings that make me tick.  I can see my experiences brightly-colored and more defined.

Maybe the idea of creative people as tortured artists is just a damaging mythology.  Maybe I am trying to grasp my own reasoning for why I do my best work when I am at my worst.  As always, I am constantly flooded with questions I must find a way to answer.  This is just another question that is often on my mind.

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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31 thoughts on “Are the Most Creative People Tortured Souls?

  1. all this time i thought i was alone,i have been trying to piece together, and find what and where my feelings and emotions meant,who i was and who iam and stumble upon this blog.
    I too do writing when im in those low places,i find poetry works for me.and like yourself when im in a good place,i struggle to find the words ,perhaps i should try to write positive poems,but it just does not feel write,No passion for it.
    Thank you for this opportunity to read others storys and to express my own.

    • Hi Glenn, thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s always comforting to hear that there are others who experience the same thing. I wish I could write easily no matter what the mood, but I truly do my best writing when there is the most on my mind. Maybe it’s a good thing, who knows, but it’s how I have found I operate. Take care.

  2. I think that the mythology of the tortured artist can inspire one to work rather than delay in great pains, to for once grasp at their depths rather than be tortured by the furnace within. In truth it grants the suffering some mean of relief, some feeling of worth that up until that point has been denied them. Certainly, the unrelenting measuring stick of progress weighs heavily upon such souls.

    All the same, I agree it can be damaging, for if one accept this role as their static identity, than their work may not have much to offer to men and women not of this type, or it may not seek to elevate one’s tortured soul to perhaps a happier more fruitful existence, or at least to one of acceptance.

  3. Wendy, I can agree. For some reason it’s so much easier when things are in a little bit of a mess. Writing to me has proven to be therapeutic! Often times, I may write things down and come back to them later, and depending on how in depth my notes were I can get right back to that feeling and write a whole post on it! But when I’m not feeling as ‘inspired’ I think of other people. What are they going through and my thoughts on it that just might offer a little bit of relief to someone going through the same thing. I also use my less inspired times to think of topics that I’ve previously THOUGHT of, but never actually gotten around to, and make them come to life! 🙂 Perfect time to introduce something new to your readers!

    • Thanks so much for the comment. I’ve always felt that writing is therapeutic as well. I feel lucky to have something to go to when I need to sort through my feelings. 🙂

    • Hi Susan, I am actually surprised by your answer. You seem like you are always so upbeat. Your stories and drawings are always so magical and sweet. I guess you never know what’s really going on behind the scenes. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Hi again Wendy, and reading all the comments here it is incredible that you have really touched a nerve and how many of us feel the same way as you on this subject. I have found it fascinating to read everyone’s responses in addition to your wonderful article.

    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve nominated you for The Blog of the Year Award 2013, as my way of saying thank you for all you’ve done for me and my blog this year. Think of it as an early Christmas present! I know you don’t accept awards as such but I did want you to know that I was thinking of you. Many congratulations Wendy and have a super day 🙂
    http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2013/12/10/going-out-in-style-blog-of-the-year-award-2013/

  5. Like you said, Wendy, maybe working through rough times puts us more in touch with a deeper part of our soul. I don’t know. It seems the feelings are more present and real to us because of the pain. But, I know I’ve had strong feelings I want to write about in watching my grandchildren playing, a beautiful moonlit sky or watching corny Christmas stories like “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

    I guess the emotions and feelings are there no matter what — just depends on what triggers them to be felt, moved to remember and write about.

  6. If you are well grounded, the torture you will experience, will not decapitate your well rounded, focused vision, and should not cause despair. Creativity is quite demanding, no matter what industry you are pursuing. Lack of sleep, restlessness, anger at ones self, memory lapses, etc.are some forms of torture we tend to experience, as we strive to put forth that masterpiece, for all the world to see. We take pride in our work, so, yes, we are tortured souls. Good read.

  7. Wendy, I have written a few blog posts about this very subject, specifically one recently called ‘The Power – How has Writing Changed You’? in which I shared how I write my best when I come from a place of darkness, when I am troubled, angry, hurt, grieving. Interestingly, the poem that I wrote as part of the post, at the end, was nothing to do with my alcoholic dad or my family life (even though I touched on it and my readers already know this about me) but it was in fact about someone, or actually two people, who had caused a great deal of hurt to someone very close to me and I was expressing my anger and dark thoughts about it and the situation. I can only write these poems at such time. I can’t write my deepest thoughts out of a place of joy and lightness. So, I relate to everything you share here in this excellent post every way.

    Thank you for sharing, you are the only other person I’ve ever felt really understood my feelings on this subject to this extent.

    Here is the link to the post I referred to above if you would be interested in reading it:
    http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2013/11/07/the-power-how-has-writing-changed-you/

    • Sherri, I am amazed at how many people are relating to this topic. I honestly thought people would think I was crazy to suggest such a thing. I am thrilled that you provided a link to that article. I am looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, it meant the world to me. 🙂

  8. I feel this way about poetry. I cannot write a poem to save my life if I am happy, but if I’m sad, I’ll write for days! I don’t feel this way about “regular” writing, though; my book, essays, my blog, etc. I have to have my head on straight for those.

  9. Wendy, your changes in mood are shared across your articles; and this expression of ‘versatility of spirit’ is a refreshing alternative from the ‘always up’ writing style that so many display. What speaks to you and what speaks to others depends on one’s respective spirit at the time; and this spirit is as varied as our seasons that connect, support, and blend life -*- as ‘WELL’. Staying heart-centered and expressing your thoughts, observations, and feelings as you authentically experience them … is what is most important -*- as this helps you and others appreciate this experience called life as ‘a whole’. Many still view life as a contest; your example reveals it is an ongoing opportunity -*- to experience, share, learn, and grow. Thanks again -*-

    • Thanks so much for your comment. It really touched me. I love the way you were able to put such a good perspective on the process. I am fascinated that some writers can always write in an “up” voice even when they aren’t feeling that way. I have no idea how they manage that unless they are writing about topics that don’t have much of an effect on them.

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