The Pain of Creativity

Recently I saw two movies about creativity, I’ve come away in awe of the human spirit. One is SEYMOUR about a classical pianist names Seymour Bernstein, and the other LOVE AND MERCY about the life of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Clearly, the artist (writer, musician, painter, sculpture), who is listening to inner voices and requires huge doses of solitude, is driven almost mad by living up to the public expectations. Seymour Bernstein gives up a career as a classical pianist, because he can’t stand on-stage performing, and Wilson has such panic attacks that he finally bows out of the big gigs and stays home, isolating and writing music. A Big Book tour sounds fabulous. I’ve heard it’s what all writers and authors think they want—with interviews on TV and talks in book stores. Let me tell you, the reality is horrible. I’ve done it, and once I got such back pains I had to use a wheelchair! I felt I was a monkey dancing at the end of a chain, a rhinestone collar round my neck and a cocky little red hat perched on my head.  After a week you don’t know what city you are in, whether you’re talking to the same audience, and for that matter you can hardly remember anymore the book you are talking about, because now, a year later, you’re in the middle of writing something else! So seeing these movies was . . . liberating! A young admirer asked Sarah Bernhardt before a performance for an autograph. Seeing the famous actress’s hands shaking, she commented, “Why are you nervous? I never have stage fright before I act.” The older actress looked at her, and said, “When you learn how to act, you will.” If you are going to give a good performance, you will have stage fright. I remember once that Bill Kreutzman, the drummer, invited me to a Grateful Dead concert, where Jerry Garcia sat alone and miserable, shaking with stage fright.   I’ve heard that the Buddhists say that everyone has five major fears: first is fear of death, and fifth is of public speaking. Back to the two films. Here the lives of two musicians unfold, one a classical pianist and one a rock star, both accounted as musical geniuses and both at the mercy of their art, and both unhinged by the pressures imposed. See the films. This is what it means to be an artist. To hear Seymour Bernstein talk about creativity lifts you to new levels of aspiration and joy.

2 thoughts on “The Pain of Creativity

  1. Hi, Sophy. I just discovered how to sent a comment to you, I think. I did write one at the Comment place after reading this “blog”[?]. I don’t know if you got it.

    Anyway the gist of my comment was. Thanks for sharing your experience. Now I feel ‘off the hook’ fo ever trying to manage any public appearances if or when I get a book published. I will watch for some other publicity method that accommodates my disabilities.

    I like your writing; feels comfortable to me. How/where can I get a copy of “For Writers Only”?


    • You can get FOR WRITERS ONLY and all my books at any independent bookstore (they can order it), or at (sigh!) Amazon, which hqs that annoying way of selling used books for $.01 (depriving the author of 10% royalty) instead of at their already reduced price, and which in many ways is an monstrous octopus, stifling — oops, sorry, that’s another bone of contention–
      And in August 10 look for my new novel, LOVE, ALBA, a story of love, romance, the art world, high society, friendship, aging, told by the wise little cat, Alba, who can see into the spiritual dimension that the two-leggeds can’t. Im very proud of this latest book, my 14th. I’m told that Anne Tyler never does promotional talks for her books.

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