I’m Done With The Myth Of The Tortured Artist

I’m calling bulls#$%& on the legend of the glorified tortured artist.

After all, Sylvia Plath is dead. And all the ideas in her head were charred along with her sad, sad, despairing body. Forgive my crudeness. Consider it art.

Angst has its appeal; of that I do not need convincing.

There is possibility in pain, blooming from brokenness.

I do believe indeed, in deeds

driven by the things that drive one


But there’s something dangerously captivating in that notion,

in the sense that it can take hold of one’s wholeness, convincing the artist that this turmoil is inherent in one’s identity. That depression is definition. That edge is essence.

Pain is not enough in itself to yield expression.

I have lost faith in the notion of the unstable artist, I have grown

skeptical of the mythologized creator rooted in pain. Though…

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I do believe

in intensity; in creation stemming from the depths of depths

within the darkness that distorts.

But when that bleakness fools you into silence, into letting you believe it is your voice in the first place, your art is not speaking as an authentic expression of you.

 ’הזורעים בדמעה, ברינה יקצרו’  (תהילים קכו:ה)

Those who sow in tears, in gladness will reap” (Psalms 126:5)

There is potential in pain, creation in crisis. Menuchat ha’nefesh (peace of mind) does not demand irrational glee. We certainly should write about our worries, about our struggles, about the barriers behind which we are confined. But a certain degree of clarity must persist, wherein the artist is present, sitting still and undefeated, amidst the thrashing waves of havoc.

That, to me, is the reaping. That to me, is creation. It is letting the tides whip by your sides and shake you, but latching onto the power that comes with claiming ownership through mere description. The artist is flustered, frightened, frazzled, but free.

Creation is the power to defy and define, to triumph and transcend, to capture and cry out. Art is the decision to resist, the refusal to surrender or drown. It is the exercise of agency to record pain, to document it; because pain loses power when the artist liberates herself simply by speaking truth.

Author’s Note: Thank you to Elad Nehorai for inspiring me with his thoughts on the matter. 

Additionally, I want to use this space to encourage anyone experiencing emotional anguish to seek guidance. Artist or not (though aren’t we all?), your mental health matters and should never be trivialized.