Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Is Creativity Birthed From Pain? The Dark Side of Some Famous Authors

"However, I never claimed that art cannot be produced without suffering, only that art produced without suffering is not likely to be very good."

-Christopher Zara 

It seems the most beautiful art is always produced from a place of pain and suffering. I don't mean all artists have to suffer to create art, but from experience and research, I have discovered that the ones who create the finest and most memorable pieces of art are individuals that have gone through a lot of emotional traumas in life. Some have said that mental illness is closely related to the state of mind of creativity. You doubt? Do a little research of your own; read a little about the personal lives of some of most notable artists in history, and you will notice one similar quality they all have...they all have suffered or still suffer from some sort of mental illness, or have experienced multiple heart breaks, or lived troubled lives.

Ernest Hemingway was a drunk, Sylvia Plath killed herself by sticking her head in her kitchen oven, Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear during an argument and later killed himself. I can't generalize on these few artists, but you can carry out your own research on other artists you know. My focus today is on famous authors and their struggles in life. They might be rich, but most of them experience a lot of emotional pain, countless heartbreaks, alcoholism, and depression. It is almost like their creativity is birthed out of the suffering they experience in life. Please note that suffering is not only associated with financial struggles; a lot of people with money can still be depressed in life.

I have picked a couple of the most famous authors of our time, and examined their lives; below are some of the things I discovered that the fans of their books and the general public might not be aware of. I was motivated to write this because of the personal struggles I go through in my life. I have written a couple of short stories and novels that people like, but I saw the correlation between the ones that people really liked the most and what I was going through emotionally when I wrote them. My most praised work till date (a Novella titled Played) was written when I was depressed, and suicidal. So, have in mind that I didn't write this article to shine the light on the ugly part of these authors lives, but to let the world appreciate them more for what they go through to create the masterpieces they do.

Wole Soyinka
It's only right that we start off with our very own country man, Wole Soyinka. In 1986, he was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first African author to achieve this. The poet/playwright has been married thrice, and divorced twice. He got married to his third wife, Afolake in 1989; she was his former student while he lectured at OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University- Nigeria). He was noted to have been a chronic womanizer while lecturing at OAU. Soyinka was locked up for a period of 22 months during the time of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1969) by the Nigerian Government for meeting with opposition.  .

Danielle Steel
American author, Danielle Steel is the best selling author alive, with more than 800 million copies of her books sold worldwide. For someone who wrote her first book at 26, and is currently 66, it would shock some to know that she has over 90 published novels to her name. She achieves this by working on up to three books a year.

Now, time for the ugly side... Her parents divorced when she was eight, and she was raised by her father, rarely seeing her mother. Steel has been married a total of FIVE times. She got married to her first husband at 18, and divorced him after 9 years of many spent separated from him. She met her second husband while she went to interview an inmate in prison. They got married a few years later in the prison canteen, and divorced three years later. The son she had from her third marriage, Nichola Triana committed suicide in 1997, as a result of heroine overdose. After a roller-coaster of emotions, it is no surprise that her books are mostly dramas with sad endings. She has remained single since she divorced her fifth husband in 2002.

Stephen King
Since the success of his first book, Carrie, in 1973, Stephen King has gone on to sell over 350 million copies of his books, making him one of the most successful authors in American history. His father left the house one day, under the guise of going to get a pack of cigarette, but never came back. King was only two years old at the time. An incidence occurred while Stephen King was a child which many say may account for why he writes contemporary horror books. He witnessed one of his friends being struck and killed by a train. He returned home speechless, and in shock.

Shortly after his first book was published in 1973, his mother died of Uterine Cancer. King took to the bottle afterwards, and has been recorded to having a drinking problem most part of the 70s.

Sidney Sheldon
Sidney Sheldon is one of the best fiction writers in American history, with many of his books being adapted for movies. It is no surprise as he started out as a screenplay writer for TV. He didn't write his first novel till he was past 50. Regardless of that, he was able to write a total of 18 novels before his death in 2007. His books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. Sheldon was married thrice; he divorced his first wife after 3 years, his second wife died after thirty years of marriage, and he was with his third till his death in 2007. It has been recorded that Sheldon struggled with Bipolar Disorder for many years, and even contemplated suicide at some point in his life.

J.K Rowling
The creator of the fictional character, Harry Potter currently has a net worth of 560 million Pounds, and is the twelfth richest woman in the whole of U.K. Her Harry Potter book series have sold over 400 million copies to date. But you have to know the other side of the story; things weren't always that rosy. She has been recorded as saying she had an unhappy teenage life as her parents marriage was going through rough times, and her Mom was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Her mother latter died from the illness in 1990, around the time Rowling had just started writing the first Harry Potter book.

She later moved to Porto (Portugal) to take up a teaching job. While there she met and married her first husband (in 1992), a Portuguese Television journalist. The union produced one child, but by the next year, they had separated, and she moved back to the U.K with her daughter. In the years that followed, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and she contemplated suicide. She kept writing through all this, and was able to develop dark characters like 'The Dementors' (which appear in her Harry Potter series) while at this very dark state in her life. The first book in the harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected twelve times by various publishing houses before it was finally accepted and published by Bloomsbury.

J.K Rowling married for a second time in 2001, and has remained married ever since.

Jackie Collins
This English novelist didn't reach her peak of success till she moved over to Beverly Hills (California, U.S.A), and started a series of 'Hollywood' books, which told true stories (of cos, not revealing names) of major players in Hollywood at the time (80s and 90s). Her over thirty books have sold over 500 million copies worldwide. She has been married three times; her first husband was a drug addict, her second husband died from prostrate cancer, and her supposed to be third husband (they were engaged for four years) died of brain tumor in 2001. She has remained single since then and live her life, 'A man for every occasion.' Her mother died from breast cancer before Collins tasted any form of fame. She has said several times that this is one of her most painful memories.

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