Creativity and chronic pain

I’ve been an author for nearly ten years now, and for all of that time I’ve been suffering from chronic pain in my back. My health issues were one of the main issues I turned to writing and the publishing sector in the first place; I needed an outlet for my creativity, and it had to be something I could do from home when the pain was too severe to get out and about. I’ve always been able to lose myself in literature, and when I realised I could write stories that people liked to read, the solution was obvious.

I don’t usually mention my mobility issues here, as it’s something I find very frustrating. There are days when I can get out and about with not too many issues, particularly if I have my toddler with me and can use her pushchair for support, but more often these days I need to rely on my stick to be able to do what I need to. I hate it. I don’t hate the fact I have to use it – that is what it is, and over the years I’ve come to terms with that. What I hate, though, is that something as simple as a walking stick changes the way the world sees you. People don’t see you; they see the disability. They look through the person as if you aren’t even there. That is something so incredibly frustrating that I suppose I subconsciously sought to keep that part of me separate from my writing.

However, I’ve gradually become aware that that was a mistake. My condition and the pain I suffer is part of what makes me the writer that I am. Perhaps it’s true that pain actually helps the creative process – the trope of the ‘tortured genius’ is well-known, and many luminary geniuses across the whole spectrum of the arts are known to have difficulties with either their physical or mental health. ¬†Of course, I can only speak for myself, but if I’m in the midst of weaving a story together, I do find myself shying away from my medication. Not only do I find it dulls the senses, but the sharp relief of the pain gives me something to fight against, a reason to push through the creative block and defy the odds to get the story out of my head and onto the page.

No doubt it helps that the stories I instinctively turn to all have an element of darkness inside them, but I would love to hear from any other authors or artists who walk the line between balancing their pain and letting their creativity run free. Do you find it an easy balance to strike, or must there always be an element of compromise?