Using the Pain

Negative experiences can be found in any creative’s toolbox. But to use these tools effectively, they need to be hewed and honed through a time of personal reflection.

The other day I found out my little sister had died. I didn’t know her very well – she was my half-sister and lived all the way across the country. She had long-running heart problems to which she eventually succumbed.

I didn’t know her very well, but I should have. I didn’t know she’d been in and out of the hospital the past few months, didn’t know she’d had a heart transplant a few years ago. I didn’t even know she had heart problems. Now she’s gone, and I feel a loss, as well as immense guilt for a neglected relationship.

They say to use your pain in your work, to be ‘real’ and to use every part of you. I believe that’s true; however, I also believe that it’s disrespectful to use it too soon. If you use your pain in your work before you’re ready, often you may end up trivializing it, diminishing its meaning and the impact it had on you. So, the question becomes, when do I start ‘using‘ my pain?

I think pain should be used after there’s been some time to process it.

Once you’ve had the time to think and to come to terms with some things, then you show your emotions off for the masses. You’ve got to give yourself time to grieve, or mourn, or move on, or whatever it is you need to do before you can put your feelings out on display.

I’m not sure what are the next steps in my grieving process, but I’ll let them unfold naturally. Then, when the time comes to use the pain in my work, I’ll be ready.

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