Should we suffer for art?
I tried skiing just over 10 years ago. I tried it because we were living in Norway and there was a lot of snow to enjoy. I’d never much fancied skiing before and felt bad about my general sporting inadequacy, so I gave it a go. And I hated it! I’d never much liked going downhill on a bicycle. I don’t enjoy crossing humpbacked bridges, and I never did like ‘losing’ my stomach. My instinct had been to avoid skiing. It had been right.
Today, I tried bikram yoga. I love yoga but was a little wary about the idea of doing it in an oven. I don’t like sunbathing. It is simply too hot. Besides, ladies aren’t meant to sweat, are they? I am not known for my patience, so the thought of a class that lasted not an hour but an hour and a half, also had me jittery. I’d be itching for the comfort of my office well before the end of class. Yet, today, I agreed to join Lisa at the local studio. If so many folk were raving about it, I had to give it a go.
I woke early, my heart pounding with the combined fears of having to hold the warrior pose in the heat and not being able to get to my desk before 11.30 am.
One step into the room and I knew I’d made a mistake. You could have sliced the air with a knife. I wished I’d been wearing a sleeveless tee-shirt and shorter shorts. There were men in the room, already glistening with perspiration, who wore just their swimming trunks and were lying flat on their backs in the corpse pose.
“If you are a first timer, your only goal today is to stay in the room for 90 minutes,” announced our lithe instructor, whom I noticed did not actually join us in the postures, she just walked about smiling and telling us what to do.
Staying in the room was tough. Particularly as we were not allowed to take in any water to drink. Apparently, it could make our stomachs hurt if we drank.
Anyway, again, my gut had been right. I did hate it. I half-heartedly followed the instructions while, in another compartment of my head, I wrote this blog post. I learned that no, suffering was not a good thing. I realised that for me, in life as in writing, my motto remained: ‘if it feels good do it, if it is easy to write, write it.’
Years ago I knew that non-fiction and poetry came easily to me, so I wrote it. Sure, I beat myself up about the fact that I was taking the easy road, and that I would be worthier if I wrote short-stories, investigative journalism or an academic thesis. Writing a novel is not as easy to me as writing a non-fiction or poetry, but I love doing it. Academic writing is not easy and not pleasurable, so I don’t do it.
As a writer, is it worth forcing the words to come if they simply don’t want to flow?
No. I don’t think so.
Does suffering make you a better writer, then?
No, I don’t think so. Not if you don’t enjoy anything about the process at all.
By the way, in case you think I am just a lazy, fat couch potato, I do like some exercises – powerwalking, normal yoga and bellydancing are great!
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