Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Life Is Pain

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” -- Robert A. Heinlein -- 

Since my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery in April and May of 2017, things have been quiet and sparse around here.  Maybe there’s something to “The Myth of the Suffering Artist.”  I'll caveat that: in no way, shape, or form do I consider myself an artist.  I have and always will approach things as a technician, or maybe an engineer.  Even when it comes to writing.  At the age of 9, I was introduced to a cognitive model called “Blooms Taxonomy.” It provided an interesting crystal ball for scrying into to cobwebs and haunted machinery in my head. (Is that you, Lord Sauron?)  I’ll spare you the boring and deviant details of my training and early adventures in metacognition, but I've come to realize where my mind does its best work: synthesis.

“Using old concepts to create new ideas; design and invention; composing; imagining; inferring; modifying; predicting; combining”

For me, writing is a problem-solving and design process.  I throw a few concepts, quotes, and references at a wall.  I arrange, rearrange, connect, fill, typo, misspell, despair, yell, accept, and publish.  But there's no art here.  It lacks creativity and originality.  For example, this is where I should insert a gratuitous (and overused) quote from Saint Norman:
...all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. 

Art or not, the process is certainly not easy for me.  And I am lazy.  Perhaps suffering is necessary to motivate a lazy engineer to overcome Newton’s First Law: an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an external force. 

"It’s always been my belief that all great art comes from pain. Van Gogh painted The Starry Night while in emotional torment; Lennon and McCartney forged their creative partnership following the death of their respective mothers; Milton penned Paradise Lost after losing his wife, his daughter, and his eyesight.

The idea of the tortured artist has long been debated in our culture, but to me it always seemed a self-evident truth. Art is a reflection of humanity, and humanity’s greatest virtue is its ability to overcome adversity. Why shouldn’t that same adversity inspire our greatest art?" -- Christopher Zara
My shoulder hurts. It’s the headwaters of my latest river of “inspiration.” I’ve completed ten weeks of physical therapy and had a cortisone injection, yet the throbbing adversity persists.  The occasional feeling of being stabbed in the joint with an icepick is an unwanted bonus. I just returned home from a two week trip out west.  I aggravated things by fishing the Big Blackfoot, Firehole, Snake, and Tongue Rivers in Montana and Wyoming.  "Hey, Doc, it hurts when I do this..."  Yet here I am. Writing. Assembling the ideas, rearranging the patterns, unfolding the equations, connecting the variables, looking for balance.  Meta-writing. Hoping that I’ll get my casting shoulder back.

Well, look at that. Hope. Might be some gratitude mixed in there, somewhere. That's why I do this.

I think I’ll wash my hands now.

(Bonus points for the readers who recognize the the title of this post as a pop culture reference...)


  1. Excellent post! I need to find the motivation once again to write. Maybe this helped. Thanks, FA!

  2. Hey stranger. Nice to see you writing again. How are things going post surgery?