While browsing through Youtube I came across a poem by a YouTuber, Savannah Brown (whom I’ve been subscribed to for about a year or two). One of her latest poems, “I Wrote This Happy”, details “artistic pain” and I started thinking about how we use pain to make art. The poem made me question how often art comes drenched in pain.

Henri-Frederic Amiel once said “You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering”. Art communicates messages of suffering and meaning behind pain. Vincent Van Gogh took his suffering and painted it onto a canvas. Edgar Allen Poe took his pain and wrote it down on paper. Suffering captured, pain immortalized.

Many have realized that there is a correlation between great pain and great inner strength and that through suffering and hard times, you get to better understand yourself. We use pain to better ourselves as a whole, put it to use so the suffering we experience isn’t for nothing. When you’re in pain, you’re vulnerable and this reminds us that we’re human. But what counts as true pain? When does hurt become suffering? Who draws the line? As teenagers, we are told that our pain isn’t “true pain”, nothing worthy enough to study or dissect. As Savannah Brown says,

“I’ve been told mine was more a sort of hot cold easy road

teenage pseudo pain

a kind of velvet sheen sugar sweet easy to digest pain

easy to relate pain

for some reason it goes down smoother than proper hurt ought to

more like clawing at a rash than shattering your spine”

Her poem resonates with so many people because they understand what it’s like to be told their hurt isn’t bad enough. She says that her most popular poems are the ones she wrote when she hated herself. We relate to pain. Perhaps, art inspired by pain is the most popular because pain feels lonely. When you’re happy, you’re aware of the people around you that can be happy with you, and when you’re sad you’re still aware of the people around you who are happy. With pain comes loneliness, all too often we believe that we have to suffer through our pain by ourselves. Art reminds us that we aren’t alone (as cliché as that sounds).

Everyone suffers, whether it be from anxiety or depression or OCD or anything, but in those moments of suffering, we internalize and forget that other people suffer too. When we come across a poem or a piece of art or a song that’s formed out of pain, we understand it’s meaning. Art made through pain is a comfort because when you’re in pain, it’s personal, lonely whereas you can find someone to share in your happiness. So it makes sense why pain is an art form. Happiness is already beautiful, pain is not, so we take the pain and make it beautiful. Artists take the hurt, separate it from themselves, dissect it, share it, and suddenly the hurt isn’t unbearable anymore.