I just listened to Big Magic on Audiobook. I've been hungry for books and podcasts and media in general about creative productivity. I am a fan of multiple Maximum Fun podcasts, and Gilbert has a show on there called Magic Lessons. The podcast will talk to someone having a creative crisis, give them advice and something to work on, talk to an expert (usually a well known artist in the same vein as the person in crisis), then check back with the person to see if they've made progress. The book is an advice book about how to live a creative life. I was honestly shocked that I liked the podcasts and the book. Gilbert is best known for being the author of Eat, Pray, Love , which I always written off as new age-y bullshit. And to be fair, Big Magic and Magic Lessons have a ton of that crap in there too (She believes inspiration comes from the universe and almost has sentient properties). But I enjoyed Big Magic because it addressed the following points that I completely agree with:
Just because you create art you don't get to be an asshole.
Collaboration is important and creating doesn't have to be a solitary activity.
Artistic Suffering is bullshit.
The last point is something I feel very strongly about. I remember first coming across this idea in grad school in two ways. The first was re-reading Marbles by Ellen Forney and the second was the dumb pretentious dudes in my class. Marbles is a great book about Forney's experience with bipolar disorder. When she's first diagnosed, she feels like it elevates her status as a real artist, along with greats like Virginia Wolf and Vincent Van Gough and many other artists that have dealt with mental illness. She called it, "the crazy artists club". I remember when I first read her book in high school I thought taking pride in suffering was straight up stupid. In the book, she actually grows a bit to realize that her thinking along these lines is flawed, especially after she notices the high number of suicides among the artists she lists and admires. In grad school she was a visiting artist and gave a talk and she was fantastic. But she sold "crazy artist club" buttons and I was like, "Oh yeah. This thing that only dumb art school babies believe in. You are a grown ass lady, what are you doing?" Then there was the conversation between some boys in my class about how their suffering is somehow elevated because they can turn it into great comics (these were the dumb art school babies I was referring to). And many of them didn't actually enjoy making comics. I was BLOWN AWAY by this. Comics are so much work and are so underappreciated compared to other artistic mediums. If you don't enjoy it, why the fuck would you make them?
My work is often about my pain. But I enjoy making it. It's cathartic. It's often fun. I don't love the whole process all of the time (production on books sucks ass), but I love making comics and art more than almost anything else. There are periods of doubt, sure. For example, I am planning on making a book of Everything's Fine strips, a combo of the best of Vol 1 and 2 along with new material. I have 1 more page to draw and 4 more pages to edit, and then I'm finally done with making these comics. And I'm getting sick of making these comics, so that's a really good thing. But I have loved making these for the last 2 years and am excited to create this book (though I'm also INSANELY nervous, I have no idea how to do a Kickstarter). So in the end, it was an enjoyable experience. The majority of comics I make are. Making comics is one of the few activities that gets me out of my own head, it makes me feel present. It usually can make my bad mood go away.
The idea that you have to suffer to make art is ridiculous. Your work isn't more worthy because it was a burden to make. You are not a more valid artist because you suffer for your art. No piece of art is worth suffering over, I don't care how good it is.