Good Art—Miserable Heart?

Maybe you’ve noticed…the “greats” of just about any art form, be it music, or literature, or painting, or sculpture, just to list a few, tend to be tortured souls. We authors sometimes joke about how the copious consumption of alcohol or other addictive beverages is a given within the writing community, but beneath the laughter there’s an unease that the shades of truth bring.

While I’m no “great” in either writing or art, the older I get, the more I find the compulsion to make things an inextricable part of who I am. In my 20’s, I had a job in the animation field, and so I drew 8+ hours a day, which left me comfortably managing the less-creative facets of life in my off hours. Then I moved into a phase of life that was a blur of pregnancy and toddler-chasing, punctuated by a yearly stint in decorating the entirety of a church campus for Vacation Bible School. During these years, the creative beast made few demands…went into hibernation, so to speak, probably because I knew I was pursuing something worthy (the molding of my children) with the bulk of my time. There was never a question as to the meaningfulness behind my daily pursuits, even when spit up and diapers and tiny missing socks characterized my waking hours.

Well, now I’m seeing my 40’s loom large on the horizon, and I’ve traded drawing for writing as my primary
means of creative expression, and while I love writing, I’m also pretty sure my neurosis has peaked. (Well barring the stretch of life from about age 14 to 17 where I was certifiably delusional in grieving the loss of my father and trying to navigate the teen years as a co-dependent, witchcraft-dabbling sociopath. My college years improved slightly in that I dropped the witchcraft and the delusions…but that’s another story of broken relationships for another day.) I’m beginning to understand, to empathize, with the tortured personalities of the arts, as much as I wish I wouldn’t.

If I’m being honest, however, there’s a part of me that knows neurosis feeds passion, and passion makes for better stories, and that’s the part of me that’s a little bit afraid to get well. To be too “normal” to make anything compelling.

But there’s a point at which emotional baggage becomes too much to bear. A point where the lows become unfair to the family that has to carry on, even if the sufferer in their midst can’t function. A point where the interior monologue that plays in times of silence becomes frightening.

I’m at that point.

Vacillating between manic periods of crazy-productivity (this is the part I’m loathe to lose) and emotional weight so unmanageable that I literally have trouble moving is no way to live, and so I’m finally doing something about it. I hope.

So it begins with a visit to a new doctor and a round of blood work—something I have been meaning to do for a year and a half, ever since a sleep study came back with no discernible issues to justify my horrible fatigue. If this comes back with no red flags in terms of physiology, that may mean my doctor and I take the road of antidepressants.

Why am I telling you all this? Mostly to give you perspective as to where my mental state may be headed as time presses on, and to give you a sense of the likely internal struggle that will provide the backdrop to what I post here in the next few months. Partially, I hope that my struggles and the road I find out of them will provide some encouragement to others who wrestle with similar issues to mine. It is my sincere hope, that although I may never become a “great” in the fields of drawing or fantasy writing, that if I can shed the weight of lies my fatigue and misery load upon me by the shovelful, that I will become more apt for what my Maker intended me to be, and that my ears will finally be clearer to hear his plans.

I invite you to walk along side me as I navigate the twisting road of creative vs. crazy. I’m increasingly convicted as someone who belongs to God, you don’t have to be one to be the other.


  1. Poor Becky! I hope they figure out what's wrong. It's no fun to be tortured. I've just come out of a period of life so horrible I still can't talk about it, so I know what that's like. You can be normal again, no matter what path you take!

    1. So sorry to hear you have fresh wounds, Kessie! I pray you will find a place of normalcy soon too.

  2. Becky;

    Sometimes I think the world wants to label anyone who sees it differently, as "crazynuts" and other times I think that those who are fighting depression, like us, or other issues grab hard onto the arts as a release valve the same way that people fighting to strengthen their physical frame latch onto it.

    Art therapy works, both emotionally and physically, after all. Which is very cool, and something I am very thankful for!

    Do you need to be hurting to make art? Absolutely not.

    Will your pain add dimension to your pieces? Yup.

    Will your joy, happiness and love also add dimension to pieces. Yup.

    The world tends to highlight that which is an echo of pain, heartache, and misery. They grovel, and glory in it. In fact misery has become so expected that the phrases "starving artist" and "tortured writer" seem to be the only labels available to us. It makes me so mad. When I'm doing well, I can STILL MAKE GREAT ART ;)

    And having followed you on FB for several years now, I can say the same. You also make great art when you're doing well.

    I'll be asking the Lord this year to really help you craft from your joy as well as from your pain.

    As one who wrestles with depression, I would encourage you (if you haven't all ready) to talk with a nutritionist as well as a doctor. I've found some real relief using supplements and vitamins, and while that doesn't work for everyone, I always say "talk to a nutritionist" to see if you're low on things, because lack can exacerbate depression for certain.

  3. My psychiatrist tried methyl-pro with me, saying that the specialized form of a B vitamin helped most of his patients. Not me. It took getting on 450mg of Wellbutrin to pull me out of a truly nasty depression. I think I've tried every supplement and vitamin out there that is supposed to help depression. None of them worked. I need the pharmaceutical industry to help me function as a human being again. That said, everybody's body and brain are different. I'll pray that you find your answer, Becky.

  4. I'm trying to figure out what normal is supposed to be. It may be "normal" to be broken, even if it's not right or healthy.

    Maybe the artistically-minded unstable people are the ones who lack the capacity for self-deception. Maybe artists know that the world is broken and wretched, and they know that they are also broken. Maybe artistic people are so honest that they can't pretend that the everyday routine is acceptable, when they know that the world and they themselves are so badly broken.

    Tolkien's short story "Leaf by Niggle" portrays an unproductive, unappreciated artist and his ultimate destiny. I didn't think I was feeling very emotional the other day when I read it, but the reality of Niggle's vision made me weep. (The story is published in the book Tree and Leaf.)


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