The Tormented Artist

The Haunted Housewife - The Tormented Artist

Alternate title: The Posts That Make Me Cry, An Essay. That gem of a title was nixed after a lightbulb appeared over my head, and I realized what was happening. Originally, I wanted to share with you what I did to hit the jackpot of heavy feelings that aid me in my writing.  Now, I’m flipping the switch.

boss-fight-free-high-quality-stock-images-photos-photography-lights-lightbulbs-hanging-960x640When you’re heartbroken is said to be the prime time for creating your masterpieces–whether you’re a painter, a writer, or a poet. I’m speaking directly to artists and creators of all kinds, here. If you’ve created anything at all, you may have noticed that negative emotions such as sadness and anger cause you to produce unique pieces. This is the Tormented Artist theory at work, and it’s important for you to recognize it.

What is the Tormented Artist Theory?

The Tormented Artist theory is the theory that an artist must place themselves into a sad, emotional spot to create their boss-fight-free-high-quality-stock-images-photos-photography-sunlight-power-lines-960x640best works. The majority of these dark thoughts come from unfortunate events and from the lemons life violently throws at you.  Sometimes, though, artists seek them out.

The Tormented Artist theory does assist you in creating more thoughtful, heavy and emotional works. But, you’re teetering the edge of selling your soul to the devil for a sack of chocolate coins.

There may be just as many self-destructive bakers as painters, but psychiatrists and biographers do not analyze their cakes. It is the tormented artist and not the untroubled one – the Vincent van Gogh, not the Peter Paul Rubens – who provides the stuff of tabloid notoriety and romantic embellishment.

If you feel compelled to call upon the darkness to get your fix, there are a few things you should know. Using the tools of the Tormented Artist for the sake of beauty will eat away at you bit by bit. One day, there may be nothing left.  Here is a big list of artists that have committed suicide.

Why is this important?

One day, I noticed my own magical ability to charm the pants off of readers with my words when they spill from a dark place. Namely in the posts that boss-fight-free-high-quality-stock-images-photos-photography-telephone-poles-wires-sunset-960x640make me cry as I write them. I’ve always regarded these sensitive emotions as my writing “sweet spot”. I tend to write a little dreamier when tears cloud my vision, and I can no longer see as clear.

In my head during these times is a villainous, maniacal laugh telling me the more I cry, the closer I am to the core of my soul. “Where the magic happens,” it says.

The Tormented Artist theory has been recognized by a lot of thinkers and makers over the years and definitely isn’t a recent development. Here is an article boss-fight-free-stock-high-resolution-images-photos-photography-cracking-paint-960x640published in 1985 by the New York Times called, How Inner Torment Feeds the Creative Spirit. It’s important to learn about it and recognize it because an awful lot of creatives throughout history lived with this pain, let it fester, eventually eating them alive.

”There’s a creative urge that gets inside you, like ‘Alien.’ For me, it’s a constant battle of deciding when not to explode, when to use that emotion to feed you creatively. There’s a constant fear, because you’re pushing something to the edge. And at the same time, there’s a fear you might become too civil, too sane.”

As far as that maniacal laughing telling me to spin deeper and deeper into my despair–HA! That chilling voice telling me that anything I write when in the right state of mind, “…doesn’t scratch the surface, and isn’t worth publishing,” is simply my inner critic that regards the Tormented Artist theory as a tool of the trade.  That voice, as well as that entire idea is boss-fight-free-high-quality-stock-images-photos-photography-woman-sunset-sunrise-960x640unhealthy. Not to mention completely wrong.

There are healthier, and more efficient ways to tap into our fountain of creativity.  I write for a blog on the internet, in addition to creating things with my hands whether by painting, sculpting or with power tools. When I fall down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts, I recognize it and redirect my attention.

A few things that help me are:

  • Reading – nothing quite inspires me like reading another’s work. Pick up a book, get to an art museum, stand there in awe at one of your favorite artists pieces.
  • Leaving electronics behind – I routinely leave my phone behind on purpose. Sometimes, I take my camera as an exception, as taking photos inspires me.
  • Getting up, coming back to it later – this helps tremendously. I think of this as sticking my nose up at my inner demons and saying, “If you’re here, I’m not going to do this.”

The Tormented Artist theory isn’t anybody‘s special tool to enhance their creative gift. It’s poison, and we need to stop succumbing to the notion that pain is beauty.

Creating is innately human, and it should be something that gives us life rather than drain it. If you start to feel negative thoughts taking hold of you while you’re doing what you love, break the habit while you still can. The fruits of your labor will adjust with time as you find a positive source of inspiration.

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Photo credit: torbakhopper via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Quotes throughout the post are from this article, as linked above.

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  • Taylor Smith

    I love your stuff. You remind me that it is okay to be different and to embrace that side of yourself.

  • Malissa Greenwood

    I love this! Especially that last line – “The fruits of your labor will adjust with time as you find a positive source of inspiration.” That’s such a hopefully, positive message. Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

  • Bonnie Marrow

    I totally agree…my writing seems to have more fire when it comes from a darker place.
    That would be when I’m writing short stories…not a whole lot of firey writing on my food blog

    • I tend to write more sappy/emotional and uncomfortable things when I’m in a dark place. But they’re pretty much always good!