Don’t Suffer for Your Art: 12 Rules to Becoming More Creative

December 28, 2010{ 53 Comments }

Does Creativity Equal Depression? recently posted an article about the 10 careers with high rates of depression. Guess what: artist/entertainer is on the list. Our friends at elaborated on this article on their blog, stating that “most good artists are slightly crazy,” and that “human suffering and tragedy produces the emotional environment necessary for profound music to emerge.”

I disagree. Or rather, I’m wary of any additional myth-making or romanticizing of the notion that you’ve got to be tortured in order to create lasting, important work. I think that we are ALL slightly crazy, and we all have experienced emotional turmoil, regardless of our creative temperament. To be fair to our good friend Kyle at Hypebot, he does say that “you don’t need to suffer from depression to create good music.” I think he is mostly taking an interesting topic and expanding upon the findings of’s studies. But I believe that being creative does not give license nor enable a greater depth of feeling. Or vice versa.

Life is Suffering

Firstly, we are all alive. And that, according to some Buddhists I know, means we are all constantly suffering. Some relatively stable, content individual who works the daily grind, commuting an hour a day to work, clocking in at 9am, supporting a family, and taking their kids to weekend soccer games has no less valid a source of pain, wisdom, world-weariness, or creative resources to call upon than the strung-out Bohemian going on their 4th heartbreak of the season, pontificating about Rimbaud in the dark recesses of your local hipster dive.

The difference between these two stereotypes, if there is a difference in creative resources, comes merely from practice and devotion to the art. Chances are, the rat-racer has less leisure time to explore creative endeavors and hone their craft. The Bohemian is less tied down, and perhaps has more free time. But they are no more qualified, talented, or focused simply BECAUSE of lifestyle choice. After all, former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser worked his whole life as an executive in the insurance industry. He seems like a jovial, happily-married fella. But his poems sure can cut deep.

You’re Screwed Up Enough Already: Back off!

I believe it was James Joyce that said anyone who has survived childhood has experienced enough living to last a writer a lifetime. If this is true, then it CANNOT be emotional turmoil, torture, pain, or deepness of feeling that makes the true artist. If this were so, we’d all be geniuses. I would argue that, in ways, good art is made from quite the opposite tendency: distancing and detachment.

Because we all FEEL, because we all carry certain hurts and disappointments with us, we are not often moved by the heartfelt outpouring of these sentiments. How impressed would you be by someone simply blurting out in song, “I’m hurting/Life sucks/I feel stuck/This sucks/I’m really torn up/and don’t feel like it’s gonna get better”???

Not very.

This drivel is 100% pure, unfiltered emotion. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. We already feel like this sometimes in life. Yeah yeah. Gimme something else.

But if you hear the same sentiment expressed in a a radically new way, it validates our experience and stirs in us that moment of aesthetic bliss that we long for in art. Take the lyrics to the chorus of Elvis Costello’s “This Is Hell” instead:

This is hell, this is hell
I am sorry to tell you
It never gets better or worse
But you get used to it after a spell
For heaven is hell in reverse

Same basic idea as the crappy lyrics,… only better! But why?

Well, he fit the idea of pain into form and rhyme. And those two restrictive forces actually serve to elevate the sentiment. Form and rhyme, by their very nature, serve to distance the creator from the expression. So not only are we delighting in the new ways Costello has painted pain for us, but we’re also pleased by the calculated cleverness of its delivery.

I would argue that great art is not made by the people most willing to suffer, but by those most willing to sympathize (NOT empathize) and then back up from the subject far enough to view it with all its strange associations and permutations. Because we can all easily empathize with the SOURCE of pain, I believe it is through distance, and not pure translation, that artists lead us to that a-ha moment where we feel high, or punched in the gut, or opened up while listening to, looking at, reading, or watching their work.

Art is like Architecture: one poorly placed beam and the whole thing comes crashing down

The other element that is vital to good art, in addition to distance, is good decision-making. Of course, this gets into matters of taste, but I think it is safe to say that we all hope to turn good decision-making into a matter of creative instinct. This can only happen through listening/reading/looking/watching, engaging with the medium, study, practice, and yes, occasionally, mysterious and sudden inspiration. The more you engage with your art, the more intuitive your process will become.

But let us remember that this growing intuition is not occurring because you’re allowing increasing amounts of torture and pain into your fragile psyche. It is happening, as it will with all vocations and skills, because you are PRACTICING! And I don’t mean running scales or doing drum rudiments. I’m talking about practicing an attitude of excitement regarding the creative process. It is not about mastery. It is about discovery, mystery, and tapping into the thrill and awe you felt when you first began. Here are 12 rules to becoming more creative:

1. Practice being sympathetic.

2. Practice looking at your art as a series of decisions.

3. Practice making better decisions.

4. Practice the art of gathering stories, phrases, melodies, ideas.

5. Practice turning your assumptions on their head in order to see things in new ways.

6. Practice being inspired by others’ works.

7. Practice going in new, unfamiliar directions with your art. (Whether internally or externally).

8. Practice what you’re good at.

9. Practice what you’re bad at.

10. Practice listening to the feedback of other people. Practice trusting yourself. Now do both at the same time.

11. Practice patience with yourself as you grow, learn, struggle, change, and change again as an artist.

12. Practice, practice, practice.

Bonus rule: Then practice breaking any of these rules that aren’t working for you.

And don’t believe anyone who sells you more of the ridiculous myth that you need to suffer for your art. We ALL have broken hearts. You’re plenty crazy enough. Now accept THAT as your license to start (or continue) making good creative decisions.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

P.S. If you have twenty minutes to spare, check out this fascinating talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert on how to keep your creative spirit healthy.

  • I feel that Rule number four should also mention that one should gather emotions, just like melody and lyric lines. Emotions imprint themselves into the melodies and lyrics and if one practices recognizing emotions then one can write better music. This doesn't mean one must be emotional or depressed. Writing a good tear jerker gives me the giggles when it is finished and recorded.

  • Some great thoughts in here, one of the things that has helped me most is being able to create habits that lead to success in music.

    A lot of people will try music marketing for a few days and then give up because they don't see instant results.

    That is all wrong.

    Just posted this to twitter.


  • Being creative is the means to fulfill ourselves without relying upon society’s prescription for reality.

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  • I really really empathise with this post! 😉

    Especially "Practice looking at your art as a series of decisions"

    and "don’t believe anyone who sells you more of the ridiculous myth that you need to suffer for your art"

    I had a minor epiphany last summer about the role songwriting has in channeling and communicating 'raw' emotions. I wrote it up as a guest post on Nichloas Tozier's amazing songwriting blog. It's called "What I learned about songwriting from a crazy guy in Liverpool" – you can check it out here

    • Chris R. at CD Baby

      Hey Matt,

      Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy reading the stuff you share.

  • If you haven't watched Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on artist's a creativity take 20 minutes and watch it now.

    • Chris R. at CD Baby

      Hey Timmy,

      I love that speech. I actually posted it on this blog a few weeks ago. I think I'll add it as a P.S. to this article. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Here's a thought which often occurs to me that might relate.

    We tend to think of great artists like Beethoven, DaVinci, etc. etc. as gifted human beings who created their work easily. But, if you look closer you often see that these people were just normal human beings who were able to navigate the world of creativity and bring their work into a place where people could see it.

    They were people who still had to deal with everyday stresses of family and society and yet somehow managed to succeed anyway.

    Even artists who were incapable in life often had a partner or associate making smart business decisions.

    I'm rambling ……goodbye and happy new year

  • No need to be depressed to create great art and be a strong songwriter. You just need to learn how to express yourself, and you can be The Bohemian or a doctor.

    I am neither The Bohemian nor the doctor, but I am not depressed and write songs that I and quite a few others like. Just work on melody and play and sing it the way you feel it… someone else will relate. If not they will find something out there.

    There are many writers and producers who work the formula that calls for fake 'drama' and 'like is so hard' where you can tell when it is not real. To me it really stands out.

    So good points above Chris, and you hit the nail on the head I think.

    Cheers and happy new year!

  • Hey, Chris. Some good stuff here. I like all of your rules about being more creative – I feel like I've heard them before. I wrote up a response to this post, as well as the one, on my own blog:

  • Interesting stuff in here. Some of it is good. I def. agree that the suffering that a hipster experiences who spends all his time in bars and coffee shops is just as valid as, say a soccer mom's. But the part that I'm having odds with here is when I'm trying to think of all of the great art works, paintings, singers, guitar players, novelists, poets, sculptors, philosophers, etc, the truly amazing ones that have placed their stamp on the hearts of humanity seem to pretty much all be highly depressed and/or insane people.

    Not to say that a soccer mom couldn't be highly depressed and/or insane.

    But like the article pointed out, it's simply a matter of lifestyle choices. If you run the rat race, it's going to be a heckuva lot harder to find time to practice and create great work. Even though that great work might be in all of us in one form or another….how and when to get it out there is tough. In IMHO, it seems that the lifestyle choices necessary to make time to create such amazing pieces of art are almost necessarily the choices of those with extremely high levels of mental instability rather than those who are merely "slightly" crazy.

    By saying that everyone is a little crazy and capable of creating a masterpiece, you run the risk of painting an overly homogeneous picture over those who are truly 'touched by fire'.

  • Good stuff here.. Nice post Chris. Thannk you.

    In my experience, most hipster bohemians piss away their time on grandiose pontifications about their future, over indulgence in every conceivable manner,and a wide variety of of other self absorbed delusions.

    Most of the most talented and productive people I've ever met manage to hold down serious jobs, be there for their friends and family, and still enjoy fertile artistic output.

    Yes, we're all a little crazy, some more than most, but the ones I admire can harness that energy and forge it into something useful.

    Happy New Year All,


    • Chris R. at CD Baby

      Hey Colie,

      Thanks. I agree. Well, I suppose it's obvious I agree from my blog post. But thanks for commenting.

  • I've found my biggest personal problem with creativity had little to do with suffering or pain, it was all about motivation (or lack thereof). Having been hacking it out since age 19 writing songs (I consider myself an "unpopular songwriter"), I found the negativity of the music biz sucking a lot of the life out of my ability to plod along. After a while, no matter how talented you KNOW u are, everyone in higher places telling you they "don't hear it" can start to make you believe they may be right, you're delusional and you're wasting your time. Fortunately, a few minor successes that missed going nuclear because of bad politics has kept my head still slightly attached by a few tenuous threads.

    I've found my salvation in prep and habits. I know now that all I need to get off my ass and work on my music is to reacquaint myself with it. Or just staying in the meme – reading trade mags like Electronic Musician and Mix and Guitar Player instead of reading People or watching a football game or bad movie is roughly 6.3 trillion times better for my career, I have found (6.3 trillion is an estimate, your own results my vary).

    I also found out that the best way to avoid the pitfalls of letting go for too long is to make it difficult for myself to avoid my craft. I have a PC alarm app now that plays any audio file as it's wake-up song. I simply put the last thing I worked on (or the one that needs the most attention) as my morning sonata. It's amazing how quickly I rush back to work now when I have the time. Sometimes I forget to eat til dinner time that day.

    Anyway, just passing my own techniques along. Happy creating, to all.

  • Of course

  • I wrote a book called "Songwriting For Geniuses~25 Tips For The Genius In Everyone" and your tips and mine overlap in a good way. The big one for me is to collect any line or word or phrase that releases a charge for me, that gives me that Yes! feeling. I am never more than a few feet from scratch paper. Life is what gives me inspiration whether painful or joyful. I don't think that seeking pain for the sake of having art afterwards is a good idea! But if living your life leads you to a painful place…you could do worse than make some art out of the wreckage…Anyone curious about my book can go to my site and get the intro and first tip free. I frickin' love CD Baby! Thanks for making my musical life a million times easier!

  • I love the Elizabeth Gilbert speech. It's incredible.

    If you embrace the things she says, you'll find yourself at the keyboard or guitar or drumkit or mic far more often than before, and that's really the first step. Show up and do your part.

    I fully suggest watching it; it was quite inspirational to me when I first saw it, and honestly spawned a huge amount of musical drive and ambition.

  • Talent means nothing if you dont practice. Its tough to try to force inspiration out of something though. Maybe google som "best of" lists and see what has inspired others. Ask others what their most inspiring moments and albums were.

  • Steve Karos

    A lot of great posts, very insightful…

    I'll go a step further, and I hope i don't offend anyone… clinically speaking a lot of depression (not all) is a form of

    narcissism. The assumption that we deserve more in life than what we've gotten, and that it's just not fair seems to

    be a common story for many people in this country. It leads to self medication or unnecessary prescriptions, and a lot

    of really bad self absorbed attempts at being creative. If you're 18, and look like a Gap model… is a broken heart really

    the end of the world ? If you think your life is really that bad, go to a cancer treatment facility for kids and take a look around… still think you've got it tough ?

    Just a thought.


  • Adam Chamberlain

    Most good artists are crazy in that they do things outside of the norm. Bowie was pretty messed up during LOW (he can't remember doing it). I would argue that DRUGS don't help, but most artists are depressed before they start writing. That's why many people become artists…to vent.

  • I wish Elizabeth would have touched more on the subject of that seemingly awful voice that rears it's head up right during the heat of the creative process. The voice that has a ton of questions about how society will react to this song (I'm a songwriter/producer). i,e. will my client like it, will it be a "successful smash hit" or will it remain forever hidden in my ITunes player? In an instant I go from writing completely for myself in a tunnel of creativity, excited about what is happening, in the moment, channeling the Gods and oblivious to any expectation of the outcome. In the instant when that awful voice speaks, the door to creative bliss is slammed shut in my face and my mind frozen in fear and taken over by anxiety, disappointment and failure.

    Over many years of songwriting and producing, I've learned tricks on how to subdue that voice of self-doubt, expectation for success, approval, recognition…. laa laa laa! When I feel it coming I go straight to God. Even if the song has nothing to do with spirituality, I pray to God… "let me love my passion freely. Work through me, heal me and show me. I embrace my time with you dear God, I surrender my body to you". With that, I let it go and usually find myself more passionate, deeper and protective of the piece and myself as I am writing/producing and slip back into the bliss of creative unawareness. I remind myself that success is the moment with God and the reward is the song that captures that moment. AND you have it for a lifetime… how cool is that!

    Not sure why I'm sharing this…. maybe wondering if others share the same madness.

    Scott/aka Dragonfly

    Maui, Hawaii

  • re paying dues for your art, 90% of all the great works-opera-classical music-pop-punk-paintings-the great american songbook are all based on heart break and sorrow. interesting that people are drawn to that for entertainment. want to see what i did after waking up in a padded cell 1967? google mort weiss. being nuts is a hell of a lot different then being all fucked up. first one must reconize that they are not 9-5 people and couldent care less who wins the super bowl, and learn how to direct their madness in a positive direction–you would be surprised what the control and the aiming of your madness can accomplish. it's called drive, and most people don't have it. but after the holocaust –how dare any of us sing songs of sadness–OH!MY BABBEY DONE LEFT ME AND IM SO SAD!—OR BLUES -YES I DRINK MUDDY WATER-AND SLEEP IN A HOLLOW LOG! shitttt-think about it-but not to much. just enjoy every breath you take as though it were the last one. see the colors-feel the seasons and–when you find true love cherish it. SHALOM i re main -MORT WEISS

  • We, all of us, are the sum total of our life's experiences! Whether that total is a positive or a negative, depends on the degree of understanding we achieve in those experiences and how we relate and share that understanding.

    It is not "what happens to us" that defines us! It is more, "what we do with what happens to us", that tells us who we are!

    Choosing not to choose, is still, at all odds, a choice! No?

  • forget about whether or not you are an artist..the word means nothing..there are simply those who work hard at what they do and produce and bring a product to life to sell and share with others around the world..the rest who just talk and don't produce, I don't have any time for that..don't wait for a perfect product, get it out there, and see what happens..again I repeat , get it out there, and forget about what others think and say …be a risk taker, and create your road not the road on someone else's….

  • Great article!

    Music sounds in all of us. It is just too quiet for most of us to hear during our normal noisy lives. But when one masters to quiet one's mind, to become calm and centered, the music appears – one just has to reproduce it.

  • wow this is a great article! I love it! great job chris!

    the only thing I would like to add is that you can't define are to begin with. art is different to everyone and everyone had their own definition so art is infinite in creative expression!

    As artists there are no rules and nothing to follow – the only guide is feeling and emotion.


    Stephen Carmichael



  • jam

    suffering, people find warmth in suffering, don't they? if your projecting yourself as having a life of suffering, through drawing on your emotional life as a child…yet your currently ok, that's a good idea, yet maybe its a trick. Can we be sure James Joyce practices what he preaches?

  • Monumental

    my mindscape she has ripped again

    and i now understand

    but wonder did i care enough

    to carve with thine own hand

    taken control to serve my soul

    and so it be the bell doth toll

    for presently it makes me: why ???

    the future's now ! it's passin' by.

    but i still lie, to save my soul

    from what ? the answer!

    now: two-fold

    an' what it is, i clearly see

    the vision has eluded me

    the memory begins to flee

    a new idea frightningly

    it brushes past, did i just see

    a moment of what i could be ?

    oh i've been told, of great and old

    of thee's new ways,

    my present daze

    and of the craze

    that takes it's wage

    the time has come

    t'turn the page

    into what ever i conceive

    he makes it into his story

    n well whatever

    i've conceived

    this moments now !

    (_ eternity _)

    – Neal Visher

  • Roberto N.

    When you have the privilege to be around truly successful and creative people you will find something very consistent. Life choices make a huge difference in the creative process. Some work well in the darkness of depression. That is their secret place that allows them to be removed from the space they are writing about. It serves as their objectiveness.

    However, considering all of life's challenges…a famous composer, I had worked with said that when he and his best friend graduated from music college, he decided to work full time and raise a family and write music each and every day for a minimum of two hours. His best friend said he would write full time. (the friend married and his wife supported his music endeavors.) After 20 years writing part time this famous composer had written as much if not more music and had received many awards and experienced more success than his friend who had written full time.

    Interesting. I myself applied the same discipline and have achieved incredible success as well. You have to live and never stop living. The depression often comes from a lack of achieving or the inability to continue to achieve at a high level. Depression can also be originated from lacking in everyday life and failing to live. Live my friends……….your craft will rise above it all.

  • "But the part that I’m having odds with here is when I’m trying to think of all of the great art works, paintings, singers, guitar players, novelists, poets, sculptors, philosophers, etc, the truly amazing ones that have placed their stamp on the hearts of humanity seem to pretty much all be highly depressed and/or insane people."

    I used to buy into this stuff big time, and it was a great excuse for late nights in bars and wallowing in bathos, but I never produced any music or writing of note until I straightened my habits out and started learning my crafts. Look at the lives of Tolstoy, Charles Ives [insurance executive], Wallace Stevens [WILD poet, insurance executive], William Wordsworth [mild-mannered reporter…er, poet] etc, etc. Maybe there is a slightly more intense pain in artists that fuels the drive to create. I used to think everyone wanted to be an artist, but they don't–they don't want to put in the years alone in front of a piece of paper or working on an instrument that it takes.

    Leonardo da Vinci was [sorry, James Brown] the hardest-working man in show business. His output can't help but fuel awe. No doubt he had many struggles, but so does a single mom in Detroit trying to put food on the table.

    When you look at the great artists who took their lives from depression and alcoholism, it is always a loss on a human level. But so often their work suffers from the booze. Hemingway is a case in point. Or maybe we are created with a certain amount of potential and have only a few great books or songs in us. The Beatles are SUCH a rarity–John Lennon and Paul McCartney's output together is just staggering. But after they broke up, nowhere near the creative and formal spark. John and Paul put the lie to the insane thing–very hard-working men who found devoted partners to share their lives and creativity with.

    Talk about rambling…But depression and alcoholism don't help creativity, they sap it.

  • Hi Chris,

    You got me thinking, so I'd like to add a few thoughts to this great post.

    As a songwriter myself, I seem to use a four stage process:


    – You must take yourself seriously as a songwriter. Suspend all disbelief.

    – Make a space where you can feel safe & undisturbed to experiment.

    – Carry pencil & paper. Keep a recording device near(eg. Dictaphone).


    – When you glimpse/hear/feel a new idea, write/record it immediately.

    – Work fast and just write/record everything that comes out.

    – Do not judge what emerges, just get it all down. You will laugh if you

    suprize your own mind; this is a good sign.


    – Believe that your new song is already there and now you must use your

    judgement, taste and technical skills to remove all that surplus.

    – Act like a sculptor chipping away the stone, to release the completed

    figure of the song.

    – I feel in music, anything that does not add, always takes away, so be

    hard on your "darling" ideas. Quality comes from what you throw away.


    – Aim to finish your song (even if it takes years).

    – Polish and refine your song until it stops changing and you feel

    satisfied that it can stand without you.

    – Bob Dylan said that when you write a song, it will follow you for the

    rest of your life. As an artist, you write your own epitaph. I hope that

    you will be well remembered.

    – When all of this is done, you are now free to sing under the influence of

    your new song. Isn't this a marvelous thing to do my friends!

    According to our ancient bardic tradition, as fellow troubadours and gleemen, please feel free to pass it on.

    Kind wishes,

    Bob Rowley

  • Waz

    I don't think you need to be depressed to create great art but If an artist is in a situtation where they devote themselves to something wholeheartedly and society doesn't put a dollar value on that devotion then it's easy to see how an artist can become outcast and possibly have problems like depression.

    For better or worse, our system values man's ability to sell above their ability to create.

  • Chris – Great post – You have an extremely lucid understanding of a very complicated procedure – Well done & thanks!

    Bob Dylan said he wrote so many songs so fast in the early days because he didn't know the process involved in the writing of a song, he was discovering the process of writing songs.

    I am with CD baby but am still new to groping my way on a tight budget through the mine field of the music business as this is my first attempt to release songs, and am still deciding where to invest my paltry bank balance. Perhaps if you would be so kind to listen to 'Free Mexico' (awaiting release @ CD baby) you could enlighten me as to what I need to do to finalize it

    Thanks again for your post

    Kyata my music is streamed here:

  • I think the single most important, and only rule I need is:

    Identify and feel the feeling you want to communicate in your music and work on the song/recording until it creates that feeling.

    Its all about implementing a vibration.


  • Chris-

    yes… the cool hipsters dressed all in black with the various tats & pierceings suffering for their art…that is so silly.

    I do fine as a day job half stepper wearing dockers handing my check to my wife.

  • Alot of food for thought and introspection in this article. I think the best part was the way it was written. It kept me interested until the end through the use of humor, examples, facts, and both historical and present day realities. It was all presented in an easily accesible literary form and generated alot of ideas and questions for me. It also opened doors for further exploring and self analysis. This article is an example of excellent writing, regardless of the stance one might take regarding it's validity. Good one Chris!


  • As creative minds we should polish all of our creative aspects, there´s usually a lot of sides of creation in a human mind and soul, we just have to explore and find out that the root of creativity it is not to be the center of atention but to give distractive happyness to others. OLE!

  • Great article! I especially like point #11. We need to be patient with outselves as we grow and change as artists. Point 6 is equally as powerful. I find it really helpful to analayze artists that I discover for the first time to bring their spirit into my music. I was recently moved by Odetta's emotional renditions of traditional folks songs and then Glen Gould's orginial interpertations of Bach–you never know where you going to find inspiration to help you grow as an artist!

  • Sue

    Hey Chris, well-written piece with much food for thought! I think your "practice" rules are great for growth, both as an artist/musician and personally.

    As evidenced every day, poverty/suffering/insanity is no guarantee to creativity; sometimes too much of a bad thing overwhelms what one was trying to achieve. However, many of the "great" artists were NOT "normal," and their lives are expressed so stunningly through their work, that is why we remember them. They put *form* to their feelings, to express them in such a unique way that the listener/viewer experiences the intensity of their emotions first-hand… even if for one bright, stabbing moment.

    I also agree that it's HOW we say what we say that makes art/songs so powerful, transcendent, etc: the image of the broken wing; the melody that rises just so; that one verse that's so funny you laugh drunk-loud, but the next image so stunning you're immediately sober. To create such art is something definitely worth striving for. Whether expressing happiness, sorrow, rage, or whatever: take the time to craft the emotion in a vehicle others will want to enter.

    I think I'm losing track of what I wanted to say, other than, thanks for the thought-provoking piece, I'm glad you shared it here!

  • Chris R. at CD Baby

    Hey James,

    I like that: "What we do with what happens to us" tells us who we are. I agree.
    Also, I think Rush sang in one of their songs, "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice."

  • Anon

    I'm going Anon here because I have a site there at CDBaby and after many years, succumbed to depression and I can tell you that it's no way to be creative. It's almost impossible, at least for me. I've got a feeling nobody has ever done their best work while in need of help because you need a general sense of joy or well being to make anything. The whole VanGogh myth (I'm miserable I'm going to whack off my ear, because nobody understands my greatness!) is pure bull and has done more to damage the perception of the artist than anything I can think of. Recent findings have shown that VanGogh and Gaugin for that matter were both gregarious and cagey Alpha male figures who knew exactly who they were and what they were doing. VanGogh just happened to have a disease that was treated with 19th century medicine. Real depression doesn't happen because no one understands your art or won't buy it (hilarious). It happens because we're all just big bags of chemicals, and the bad ones somethimes decide to take over. I got help and it saved me. I'm not afraid of anything anymore, even though I'll probably never be completely well. But, who is. And after all of this, writing a bad song that someone won't like is about the least of my worries. It doesn't mean you stop being your best critc (the best advice I can think of), but it does mean not letting something like writing a song set you off one way or another. We're (artists) in life's toy department in the big sceme of things. This is why people will never really take you all that seriously. That kid in the movie Fame said to his pouting comic friend; "In the Middle Ages, they used to hang us, what did you expect?" Painting is pushing around colored mud on a piece of cloth when you get down it. And playing music is just that; "playing" music. Play. Let all the other suckers work.

  • Hi Chris,

    I just wanted to say I loved what you wrote and am inspired today. I'll post that list at my desk.

    I also enjoyed watching Elizabeth Gilbert's video. It was really was worth the 20 minutes. 🙂 The part about the dancers and the Ala and the Ole was interesting. I prefer knowing that my God (Yahweh)is with me and helping. Do you know what Yahweh means? (I just read it in Max Lucado's devotional book "Grace For the Moment" this morning before I read your article) It means "I AM" and "I CAUSE TO BE". p.25. Perhaps He is the One, the "something" in the corner, Elizabeth is talking to.

    I love reading Psalms 139. It tells me He is there.

  • Thanks for this excellent post

  • Wow "A Glimpse of God" or " Ole" that was an inspiring video from Elizabeth Gilbert , thanks for posting.

  • Writing music is a craft, which means it requires learning, dedication, and practice. Creativity shouldn't be waited for, it should be summoned when you want it. This of course is something that must be learned and practiced in itself. Pat Pattison's Writing Better Lyrics changed my whole view of the creative process and how to get your ideas started and developed. I am still working on my ability to dive deep into my creativity to find my voice as an artist. Check out my music.

  • I am really glad that I came across this article. At times it really does feel like the really successful people have such dark backgrounds and pasts that seem to fuel their fire. But I think we all have stories to tell and its all about how you tell the story.

    Great work CDbaby

  • As a songwriter, some of my best songs have come when I had no intention of writing. Like "Once Again" I feel as though they were channeled through in some way. I also know what it feels like to be an artist who is trying to make a buck. I guess the thing that keeps me grounded is that money only last as long as you hold it, but when you create something it takes on a life of its own. And for me I'd rather have the gift to create than the money to buy it. Come by and check out my songs Not for me but to inspire You. You deserve it!That's why I write.

    All the best!

  • Got through the first 3 paragraphs and couldn't stomach anymore. The envy is obvious of artists here. Jeesh. What the writer doesn't acknowledge (probably at all in this piece, but not early on) is that TODAY in 2011, most musicians and artists are at the SAME TIME doing the 9 to 5 thing, even raising kids and doing the commute. THIS is what is leading to a lot of depression. The fact that the infrustructure is not there for someone to be a full time artist anymore. And one of the saddest things in the world is to be blessed with a whole lot of talent and NOT a whole lot of time to anything with it.

  • Forgot to leave the link to my website so you can hear some cool tunes.

  • I found this very refreshing…and very much agree. Draw from what you've learned…and run with it! Afterall, as was said, we've all suffered…and may still be suffering, but direct your focus and embrace the thrill of creating. And smile. Or better yet, no matter what you've walked through, once in awhile take the time to laugh. Out loud. There's nothing like it!

    Loretta Wheeler/L Reveaux

  • Ah well, like someone ahead of me, I didn't insert my websites on the comment. I thought it would place them inside the post. So here they are:

    You can find me at


    or on facebook under Loretta Wheeler