If you're not feeling pain in your creative life, you're no longer growing. If you're experiencing a lot of pain in your creative life, you have a lot of potential left to reach. The old cliché: "No pain, no gain" is probably even more true for creative work than it is for bodybuilding.
The kind of pain one experiences when working out -- the "burn" -- becomes something every active person learns to love and look forward to. But I don't know many poets, even the wisest and most accomplished, who look forward to the "burn" of poetry.
Not hard to see why. The muse, as another venerable cliché reminds us, is a harsh mistress. You can't overstate this. Even if your poems are currently flowing like rain and you've got enough acceptances, Twitter followers, and blue-ribbons to fill your tombstone, you're still going to face pain as a creator.
This is tough in a culture that tries to turn a blind eye to not only suffering, which is all around us, but also to growth. Broadly speaking, in a capitalist culture, you're supposed to get a job, maybe a nice title to throw around, make money, buy stuff, and die. That's it.
But poetry wants more from you. Life wants more from you. It wants you to give voice to something only you can bring to life. And to get to that very special, so profoundly vital work, you have to keep growing. Not only that, but if you restrict your feelings in any way as an artist, your work will suffer. I'm not saying your work will inevitably suck, just that it won't be fully realized.
That's why being an artist is truly a dangerous business. You have to deal head on with what everyone else runs away from and you have to do it with style and conviction.
Darren Aronofsky is one of the more "popular" artist working in past few decades who really has a handle on the pride of suffering that any serious artist needs to maximize their potential. Go back and watch Black Swan again.
It's not a tragedy; it's the birth of an artist free of the past, and free of self-imposed limitations. But to get to that place, you have to love your pain.
And wear it as a badge of honor.
Poems Written: 293
Submission Tally: 47
Rejections: 17 (10 tiered)
Poem written today: "Talking Points"