Faith, for the Creatives

The Tortured Artist Mythology: Difficult to Love

This is part 2 of the Tortured Artist series: Check out part 1 “Identity Crisis” and part 3 “A Christian Artist’s Dilemma.”

Reading last week’s post, you may have thought I hate all that “I have problems but it’s cool” music. You know what I mean.

But actually all of these are on my Spotify favs playlist. I’m all about it, probably embarrassingly so.

Because to some extent, there is some truth to the idea of the tortured artist. (Google it: You’ll find that there are studies crediting and discrediting the idea.) Yes, some of it is confirmation bias….I know there are those who are dramatic nuisances who are not artistic and I know there are those who embody artistic expression yet I can’t imagine having a problem with (I’m looking at you, Maggie Schoepke! Don’t burst my bubble now.) But let’s be real: artists are in general particular about so much. There are non-artistic types that I can see being easy to love – no really, their laid-back temperament and cheery disposition make it so. And if you’ve seen just one portrayal of a tortured artist, well, we’re difficult to love. There are countless tragic stories created from that truth.

Can you spot the mess-up in this picture?
Can you spot the mess-up in this picture?

Above is the picture I did during worship this Sunday. (I know, even if you think I’m a bad writer, you can’t argue that I write better than I draw.) And it actually all started with me spilling coffee on the paper. A mistake. But finding the coffee stain is a trick because really, with my skills, it’s all a mistake, all of the splotches should have been more splotchy, all the lines should have been more defined, the squares would be more symmetrical and the squiggles shouldn’t have angles. One big oops. And that’s kinda life. And that’s kinda church. And that’s kinda people. (Not their creation, but their actions and relationships.) In some ways, the coffee stain is the most exactly right part of the whole thing. Oops!

Confession: I’m a little bit of a Sheldon. From Big Bang Theory. I actually watch the show and want to yell at Leonard and crew for not understanding him. I have a “my spot” too, that (though I don’t react as much as Sheldon) no one else can sit in or I’ll be uncomfortable the entire evening.

My roommates were talking about my “Roommate Contract” if I formed one like Sheldon did. It entailed the following:

  • Don’t let my bananas touch your bananas
  • Don’t let my toothbrush touch your toothbrush
  • Don’t move away from the sink while brushing your teeth
  • Don’t reorganize the communal areas without apt time for mental preparation
  • Don’t feed me sauce without first informing me of its exact ingredients or I will assume you poisoned me with Sriracha

Here’s a near-exact conversation from this week:

Courtney: Amy doesn’t like spicy food

Me: Yes I do, some. I get Medium spicy at Indian restaurants. I just don’t like the taste of most spicy sauces. Because they’re a sauce.

Lexi: And you don’t like most sauces.

Me: Right.

Courtney: But you don’t like it so spicy that your nose runs.

Me: No. Because that’s wetness. And I don’t like getting wet.

Courtney: Yeah, that’s a different problem.

It’s kinda hilarious and kinda pathetic that while at the grocery store I told Courtney that I can’t walk out of the store without a cart, even if I had no groceries. I was joking, but she thought I was serious.

(Side note: My roommates are moving out – who’s ready to be my roomie now? Haha 🙂 )

I’m very particular about certain things, but then I’m fed up with people who are very particular about other things. I’m scared of change and slow to trust, and I know I should be more flexible, more adapatable, just more than I am. But the shoulds can’t own me just like the faults can’t. And where’s the balance in this?

The lie of easy relationships can stifle the artist’s ability to engage in true relationship. Because it’s destined to failure or great pain at the very least, according to all of the Hollywood portrayals. And even if we’d risk ourselves, if we truly loved the other person, would we expose them to the toxicity of relationship with madness?

This is the dilemma artists face, the paradox we love and we hate. Because the tortured artist mythology is true. But it is also false. It’s only part of the story.

I’m difficult to love.

But I’m lovable.

And I can’t forget that part as I try to get rid of character flaws while holding on to my personality.

What About You?

Do you consider yourself an artist or no?
What quirks do you have?
What do you think of the tortured artist – true, false, both?

Come back next week for Part 3: The Christian Artist’s Dilemma

3 thoughts on “The Tortured Artist Mythology: Difficult to Love”

  1. I love this so much! It sounds like God is teaching you a lot as is He teaching me gobs when I read through this 🙂 Can’t wait for part 3! This has encouraged me to seek out how God wants me to grow as a Christian as well as an artist 🙂

    1. Oh yay, I’m so glad! He is just bringing so much together for me, and I can’t grasp it all, but I see glimmers 🙂 glad you’re on the journey with me! And I’m excited for part 3 too hehe, let me know what ya think

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