The Hero's Journey & Why Good Creatives Must Suffer for Their Art

I’m not breaking any new ground here with the tortured artist and creatives suffering for their art concept. This cliche conversation has been going on for a very long time. Whenever something does persist to the point of cliche, this is a sign that there must be at least some element of truth to it. Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Michelangelo, Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse are examples of people who fit the tortured artist stereotype in popular culture. I want to be clear that I am not advocating the emotional and physical extremes that some of these people went through. Rather, my position is that we must experience some suffering, some pain on our journey to producing great material. We must go on our own unique hero’s journey in pursuit of our passion.

You are likely to be familiar with the hero’s journey. It forms the storytelling structure for a great number of books and film. The inner journey framework developed by Joseph Campbell, goes like this:

  1. Limited Awareness of Problem

  2. Increased Awareness of Need for Change

  3. Fear: Resistance to Change

  4. Overcoming Fear Committing to Change

  5. Experimenting With New Conditions

  6. Preparing For Major Change

  7. Big Change with Feeling of Life And Death

  8. Accepting Consequence of New Life

  9. New Challenge and Re-dedication

  10. Final Attempt(s) and Last Minute Dangers

  11. Mastery

Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker and Wonder Woman are a few heroes that follow this journey in popular storytelling. Our journeys don’t neatly fit into a box but this hero’s journey provides a general framework for my thesis on why good creatives must suffer for their art. The hero’s journey is about triumph over adversity and personal growth. The moral of these stories is that while the road was long, arduous and challenging in every way, the end result was worth it. The end result of growth and mastery. I have learned through my own trials and tribulations that adversity is a crucial part of the creative journey. Adversity is the lens put over your eyes that allows you to view the world in your own unique way. That unique lens breeds creativity, discovery of ideas and concepts other people just can’t see or bring to life the way you can. You will likely face more adversity because of this. Because people don’t view the world with your unique lens, they may not see the art that you do. People will challenge you, ridicule and shoot down your ideas. If you truly believe in what you have produced, you have to fight for it, you must suffer for your art.

To any creatives that may be reading, it’s important to remember that the traditional hero’s journey is about triumph over adversity. If suffering and adversity are weighing down too heavily on you in some way, don’t suffer alone. Seek help, seek support if you need it and get outside your own head. There are more people willing to be there for you on your journey if you give them the opportunity. George Lois said “creativity is the ultimate adrenaline rush, If you have what you consider a fantastic concept, you must drive it to the precipice”. It is important however not to push yourself or your art too far over the edge.

Thanks for listening

- E

Oliver Minnett