Kurt Cobain. Avicii. Chester Bennington. Chris Cornell. Mac Miller. Michael Hutchence. Heath Ledger. Demi Lovato. Robin Williams. Ben Affleck. Amy Winehouse. Charlie Sheen. Courtney Love. David Bowie. Drew Barrymore. Joaquin Phoenix. Johnny Cash.
What do all these people have in common, besides being widely talented? They all either committed suicide, overdosed, or had a substance dependance requiring treatment. The list goes on. And on. And on. And on. And these are simply the creatives who we know about: because they’re famous.
This blog is not meant to be judgmental, because I have struggled with my own substance dependence. Everyone in this world is on their own journey, and for most people that journey isn’t always pretty. But we can all see, a lot people in a creative sphere struggle with some form of depression or dependence.
One of the things I’ve been pondering recently is the creative process. At Orama we are privileged to be held in a space where creativity can actually be part of our job - like taking photos, editing video, writing music, cooking, writing a blog. Don’t get me wrong there are still toilets to clean and rooms to be made up, but part of our job can be a space to be intentionally creative. What I’ve realised is this: it’s actually really hard to create or do something and put it out into the world to be judged - even if your audience is only 700 people or so. There’s something inherently vulnerable about this action. And it’s scary. And it hurts sometimes. And the creative process can be painful. You’re drawing from the most inner parts of yourself giving that so a group of people and saying “is this good enough?”. At least that’s what it can feel like. I think sometimes we can find that whilst the creative process is cathartic, the resultant product, put on view, brings another set of problems. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all creatives do what they do to bring attention to themselves; sometimes that’s a byproduct of their genius. Kurt Cobain would probably be a classic example of this. Dave Grohl maintains that Kurt never wanted to become a huge rockstar. He wanted to play music and the fame happened as a result. Some people may disagree with me here. But the fact remains, being in that spotlight is hard - even on a small scale. I’ve worship lead music in front of lots of people, and I always walk away from it exhausted. Oddly enough I find it harder in a smaller, intimate group than a large faceless crowd. Even though I’m not playing my own songs, there’s still an aspect of ‘putting yourself out there’ which takes physical and spiritual energy. I think this leads creatives to be hypercritical of themselves, their performances, and their life. To numb this they can do things which perhaps on a different track wouldn’t have happened.
I think there’s also an aspect to this of creative people just feeling things differently. More acutely. It’s what makes their output so relatable and available, but can also be their biggest curse. That heightened sense of feeling makes the process of creating that much more vulnerable, and makes criticism so much harder to bear.
When you’re putting your heart on a plate for the world to see you’re acutely aware of it, so criticism becomes all that much more painful - almost a rejection of your heart.
So what is there to be done?
Look after the creative people in your lives. Give them a safe space to develop and create their story, their voice. After all, it’s tough being creative.
By Phil Knowles