Googling this phrase led me on quite a journey. I wanted to bravely discover how unique my thoughts are not. I wonder how many great playwrights and screenwriters might have hesitated had they the benefit of a two second beatdown from Google.
Predictably, my search revealed that much has already been said and written about my ham fisted contemplation. Ideas and creativity, regardless of application, must be subjected to privation and struggle to be of any use let alone great. Dickens wrote:
There is nothing in life more disenchanting than attainment.
Creative endeavor is the concentration of the ordinary pain of existence into the crucible of brief effort. Taking what is normally diluted by the banality of time’s obnoxious march and yielding a density of emotion bears a useful friction against the inescapable monotony of life. Left behind is a static reserve of quaint mediums i.e. books, music, photographs, movies, paintings, machines, and software all designed and determined to express our hostility to our natural destitution.
Whether recording the majestic yet benign beauty of a mountain stream onto a painter’s canvas or the musings of would-be writers onto countless WordPress blogs like this one that may never be seen, privation and struggle it seems are the fuel. This reality belies the ironic usage of the trite phrase: “starving artist”. It’s a chicken and egg thing: does the artist starve for lack of material output from his effort or is his extraordinary product fed by his circumstances?
But what about works of apparent joy? Surely not all creative product is born out of misery. Often found, however, is that the greatest of joys follows a tragic event. Children adopted because of 9-11 or the disaster in Haiti a few years ago realize tremendous happiness.
If I were better read I could cite some juicy example from classic literature. But my lack of exposure to such is dwarfed only by my incapacity for the awesome dissonance between pain and joy. Without one the other would be unrecognizable the way an overwhelming wash of light allows no color.