Thursday, June 1, 2017

On suffering for art

In Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick writes, "Tell me, is it true that a bad artist suffers as greatly as a good one?"

I marked the page because that line made me think quite a bit. We hear the advice to dig deep, to open a vein, and one thing we can always tell ourselves if we're not succeeding is that we haven't dug deeply enough, we haven't cut close enough to the bone. Maybe more hours of work will do the trick. Maybe we just haven't invested enough yet.

But that's not necessarily it. There are artists who sweat and scrimp for years, who put in the effort and the time, but never quite find an audience for what they're doing. Is it a lack of originality then, a lack of some spark that holds them back, or is it just bad luck? What is a "bad artist," anyway? 

This is the point where I sense that I am asking unanswerable questions, and I turn to the next page. The one thing I know is that effort matters, but only to a point, and suffering is no guarantee of eventual payoff. Which is why the best part of making art is often in the creation itself.

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