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Literary Conversations

Is it a temperament or trait?

by Erica German

Most of us are familiar with the typical perception of artists; they are pouty, moody, mysteriously dark souls that live irresponsibly.  That is like saying all drunks are homeless beggars when in fact, many are functional alcoholics that go to work every day, contributing to society while suffering addiction.  Like these utilitarian dipsomaniacs, many artists laugh and remain calm in the storms of life, functional and successfully employed.  In fact, I believe that much of society’s perception is the result of public reaction to their boldness throughout history.  Instead, if those creative ones share any trait, it would be bravery exhibited by their willingness to share their ideas with others.  We all keep things to ourselves which we do not feel would benefit self or others.  And, just as the masses do, artists weigh the cost of keeping controversial issues to themselves, determining in many cases that society must take its’ medicine in order to be well. This means swimming upstream, reaching for the right words or visual display that the artist feels is needed to ignite passion for change.

Of course, not all art, writing included, is meant as a magnificent rebellion.  But, even writing about happiness and kindness, love and mystery touches readers in a place they may keep private.  Make believe is in all of us, pretending is a way of taking a fiver from the weight of reality.  Maybe this is why many artists have endured much suffering.  That might be why they are so good at pretending.  They have more practice pretending than the average person does.  To say artists are some of the bravest among us would be accurate.  They bear their souls in ways incomprehensible to most.  The question isn’t whether the artists are all alike in some aspect of their nature, but whether there exists an artist that is not unique in their experience and expression.

About The Haberdasher

Created by writers for writers, The Haberdasher, or le Hab, is your Peddler of Literary Art for Northern California and beyond. In addition to writing tips and literary debates, we also feature critical reviews and author interviews.


One thought on “Is it a temperament or trait?

  1. These two articles seem to respond to this question from interestingly diverse perspectives:

    “Why I hate the myth of the suffering artist” by AL Kennedy ( ). In short, Kennedy brings this debate down to the following scenario: “Just try kicking your bare foot really hard against the nearest wall. In your own time – I can wait … And now tell me how creative you feel. Just bloody sore and mind-fillingly distracting, isn’t it?”

    “Creating Reality: The Pleasant Psychosis of Writing” by Juliette Fay ( ). Fay likens the writing experience to living in the space where you feel most at home: “I like to live in a story the way my son likes to live in the woods. And yes, that’s how it feels, like I’m living there. If that sounds mildly psychotic … well, it is, in a pleasant, controlled sort of way. I think about my characters all the time. Rather than creating them, it feels like I’m discovering them. ‘Oh,’ I’ll realize in the middle of driving someone to sports practice, ‘that’s why she’s so angry. It’s because …’.”

    Posted by Ki Koenig (@kikoenig) | April 6, 2012, 8:00 pm

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