Irregular verb: I am sensitive, you are touchy, s/he is a fusspot.
Have you ever been told you are 'over-sensitive'? Apparently when I was a baby, a complete stranger looked in my pram where I was bawling my head off and declared firmly, 'Ah, artistic temperament'.
My mother never tired of reminding me of this incident throughout my subsequent life!
But does the writer or other 'creative' actually need to be more sensitive, to have deeper, and yet more easily accessible, feelings than other mortals? Are we born without that extra skin that enables the less 'artistic' to imitate a duck's back and let life, like water, roll off them? Sensitivity can be an excuse we use to make others do our bidding ('only the tiniest bit of chilli for me please') but if we really are more impressionable or even more fragile than others, it can be both a curse and a blessing.
A curse because, inevitably, life is going to send us tough stuff and we may be more affected by it than those with thicker hide or who bounce back quicker. A blessing because - well, actually for
Of course, if sensitivity is a necessary attribute of the artist, it has its downside - we may be perennially closer than others to tipping over into the fearful territory of mental illness or breakdown. It surely is no coincidence that so many of our great writers/painters/musicians have suffered psychologically as an accompaniment to, or perhaps the price of, their creativity (or its inspiration?). You can be a highly sensitive person without producing any artistic output whatever, of any quality, but I'm not so sure that the converse applies.
There are always the glorious exceptions, writers and artists full of unquenchable joy and humour, who enrich our lives with laughter and hope - surely P G Wodehouse, for example, a writer of enormous talent, had few if any moments of despair or overwhelmedness - although you could argue
For most of us, however, if we want to create for the consumption of a human race almost all of whom will experience suffering, and most of whom will have moments of extraordinary bliss, we will have to live through both pain and pleasure ourselves, and we may have to experience them at a greater intensity than the average. Or is that just me?
Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything
I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also
writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New
Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the
only non-conservative, English
speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a
high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at