There’s this belief that anger and adversity produces the best art. I’m not certain who actually believes it, but it does seem to be a truism of sorts that is rarely challenged.
I have never achieved success in any of the arts apart from coming second in a short story competition of some repute when I was eleven years old.
I wasn’t massively angry when I was eleven – although I was a bit gutted that the kid who beat me was only eight. I must’ve beaten loads of other eleven years olds to come second but there was still some ignominy in being runner up to a much younger child. She completely deserved to beat me; hers was a story of charm and precocious wit. Mine was an unashamed rip off of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.
My life after the age of eleven, my secondary school years if you will, were full of anger and adversity and I achieved next to nothing in that time aside from a reasonable, though mildly disappointing, set of GCSEs.
But maybe I was never destined to produce any art of note. I have clearly got ambitions of writing, but if I couldn’t produce anything in my twenties when I was angry about loads of stuff (mostly misplaced anger about stuff that was pretty much my fault) then apparently I have no chance now I’m in my thirties and for the most part, relatively content.
Although I do write a lot more stuff now than I did then, so from a productivity point of view, I’m actually doing much better.
The nature of my current job means that I do meet plenty of people going through fairly genuine adversity and most of them are pretty angry about it, but none of them produce much in the way of quality art, whereas the successful artists that I have encountered have seemed to my eyes to be quite privileged, with only a set of ‘first world’ problems to moan about.
Perhaps the overcoming of adversity is a natural path to artistic greatness, and I’m certain there are some great examples of this. I’d imagine though, that genuine adversity is far too much of a barrier for art to be produced at all in most cases.