When Pain Shuts Off My Creative Spark


Pain shut off my creative spark. I don’t have the faintest glow — not even a hint of warmth, never mind sparkle. So, I got to thinking: Where does creativity come from? And where has it gone now that I’m battling this complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) diagnosis?

What I’m looking for is proof that there’s a connection between pain and creativity, so I can understand why my light went out temporarily.

Dr. Joy Madden, the self development editor for BellaOnline, says that we actually might need pain because it can have a positive effect on our creativity.

(Not mine, Dr. Joy.)

Indeed, her article goes on to say, and I quote: “Some of the most famous creative works have been accomplished when experiencing the greatest pain.”

(Oh, dear.)

In the “Pain and the Creative Process,” author K. Ferlic says:

“Although pain is not inherent to the creative process, it is integrally tied to the creative process as performed by humans because of how we create our experiences. Pain and the creative process are related in several different ways.”

(Oh, double dear.)

In articles like these, it seems to me they’re talking about the need to have experienced the pain of depression, loss, longing and desire to fire up the creative processes.

And I’m not talking about the “tortured” artist who finds creativity in every brushstroke or every word just because they were discarded by their precious other. If you want to write about heartbreak, it’s only common sense that it helps if you’ve gone through it yourself.

I’m talking about having CRPS right now.

It hurts. It really hurts. Now. And now. And now. Over and over like “Groundhog Day.”

You get the picture. But other people don’t. They’re so happy to see you out and about that they slap you on the shoulder or rub your arm and don’t realize they’re putting you through agony. I try to anticipate and turn to the side, but I’m never quite quick enough.

Chronic pain is tiring. Exhausting. Medication gives you nausea on top of everything else you’re putting up with. You can’t sleep, so you’re even more fatigued. You begin to avoid going to places where people will rub your arm and tell you they’re glad you’re all better now. And, yes, from time to time you get a little depressed.

With all of the above going on, how could anybody find the energy to be creative?

I read Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on this. I like his thinking. I like the reference to daydreaming. I like how he says ideas often come when you’re doing something else.

But when you’re in real, excruciating pain — right now this second — you don’t do something else. You don’t do daydream. You’re not relaxed enough for those things. All you can do is try to cope with your pain and get through the day, the hour. When you’re relaxed, it’s because medication got you there, and you probably couldn’t even remember how to write a shopping list, never mind write the next 5,000 words.

I found I could edit, though. I could look at what I’d already written and reshape it and get it ready for publication. So there’s a positive to come out of this. Maybe without the enforced limitations on my capabilities I might never have got around to editing my book, “Patterns of Our Lives.” I’m pleased and proud it’s out there and selling.

But please don’t tell me pain is conducive to creative arts. It only works in the past tense.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images


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