What Everyone Should Know about the “Suffering Artist”

Maybe your mom said it when you told her you wanted to go to art school. Maybe your teacher said it when you mentioned your novel. Maybe your friend said it after complimenting your work.

They meant well. They really did.

But they said it anyway:

“You know, you can’t make a living doing that.”
“Writing is a hard, hard life.”
Real artists suffer.”

This sentiment permeated the halls of my own grad school experience. We idolized the downtrodden and suicidal. We held up as examples the saddest and the most bereft: Hemingway, Plath, Wallace, and so on. They suffered, so we should, too.

Let’s take a step back and talk about reindeer (trust me on this)

Around Christmastime, a woman brought her son to one of those Santa Land parks—you know, you buy the tree and sit on Santa’s lap and look at all the pretty lights and go home sticky with candy cane. This particular Santa Land was completely decked out: trees, lights, fake snow, people dressed as elves—and actual reindeer.

…and reindeer poop.

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