More on unhappiness.
There was a psychiatrist in Chicago nearly 40 years ago and told his patients who were writers and painters that he would not take away their depression because it would take away their art. Their depressions, he said, were the unconscious storing up energy for the next artistic work, and to take away that energy would destroy the art.
Now, deep depression, or bipolar disorder should be treated but that doesn’t mean that all the suffering of those people is destructive. One can be medicated and still suffer in order to create. The desire to stop all suffering is best dealt with in the spiritual journey—not in the creative life.
It makes sense. A strong creative achievement usually means breaking up the psychic arrangements that created the previous works—and life. But not, all that goes to create the next work. That is very frightening for most of us.
The unknown also brings with it an ancient fear and its cousin, the fear of losing control. If we don’t have the whole work outlined, we are on a journey that takes us where we might not want to go, that is beyond our capabilities—with the fear that even if we pull it off—we won’t be able to do it again. These journeys do not leave a trail. They are written in sand, washed away by the wind.
Will we able to finish the play or novel? Will it change us and in what way? Will we be able to continue writing, working, meeting friends, greeting our lovers?
Or will we be changed? It is not an idle question. As Walker Percy asked (quoted from Seven Steps on Writer’s Path, Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott, Ballantine Books, 2003): “Who would want to live with a novelist? A man underfoot in the house all day? A man, moreover, subject to solitary funks and strange elations. If I were a woman, I’d prefer a traveling salesman.”