Chapter 1

Creativity hurts

1.2 The pressure on artists

It is commonly understood that artists are special people, people who create something that is not only of monetary and personal value, but that is also of cultural value, i.e. it something to be admired by future generations. This is a very important aspect of the creative process, because it raises the issue of immortality. Trying hard to achieve this, the artist puts him/herself continuously under pressure to produce new work of the highest standard. Modern mass-communication has increasingly raised these standards. Today, art-works have to compete not only with the best contemporary works from all over the world, but also with the best of art throughout history, because television and modern printing methods have made art accessible to nearly everybody.

The creative career has become one of the most competitive professions. Success is very important, not necessarily in terms of finance, but in terms of honor and self appreciation. In other words, because the artist's job is to create a personalised vision, the lack of recognition of this work not only criticises his/her skill but also his/her personality. In short, the nature of creative work is far more emotional and thus vulnerable. According to Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf suffered breakdowns, depressions and suicidal tendencies when she had just finished a book, in fear of criticism.. This is why artists are quite desperate to be successful (not in terms of money, but self-esteem) ,and may find themselves under more pressure than they can cope with.

Virginia Woolf

This pressure will have an effect on the mental state of the artist. Stress at work or elsewhere meanwhile is accepted to be a source of mental and physical problems. Doctors world-wide are addressing the problem of lifestyle. If one considers that in addition to the above mentioned pressure, creative work is often a solitary pursuit which leads to some kind of expression (i.e. communication) , and likely involves a large degree of self analytical examination, it is not surprising, that artists often suffer. The conflict between communication and self-centered work has to cause problems. In Michelangelo's letters for example, it becomes clear that 'the higher he rose in the esteem in the world, the more difficult and bitter he became'.