MANY years ago I was surprised to find out that my hero David Lynch wasn't some bizarre, dark, possibly drug inspired mad man. His artwork - movies, paintings, sculptures - were all quite twisted, frightening and foreboding so it followed he must be a disturbed and unbalanced fellow. Turns out he is a very positive minded individual, enamored of Transcendental Meditation and by all accounts a cheery and affable personality. (He even founded the David Lynch Foundation for TM) It was an eye opener.
Often, with late night conversation among artists (or at least songwriters in my case), the discussion comes around to whether it's necessary to suffer for art. Whether art needs to be truly biographical or are abstract fictions acceptable and effective vehicles for arriving at truth? I think *all* experience adds to your paint box when it comes to making art. It broadens your ability to imagine and to sympathize with characters. But, as Lynch says, "You need contrast and conflict in order to tell a story. Stories need to have dark and light, turmoil, all those things. But that does not mean the filmmaker has to suffer in order to show the suffering. Stories should have the suffering, not the people.”
I have no definitive answer of course. My life spent trying to make art and interact with fellow creatives has led me to believe that there are many trails to the top of the mountain.
The David Lynch paradox is liberating evidence that genius doesn't have to come from pain.
(His book of quotes, "Catching the Big Fish" is a great and easy read.)