56 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2022

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Part 1, Chapters 3-4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Sorrow and Longing: How Can We Transform Pain into Creativity, Transcendence, and Love?”

Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary: “Is Creativity Associated with Sorrow, Longing—and Transcendence? Whatever Pain You Can’t Get Rid of, Make It Your Creative Offering”

A brief sketch of the late writer and musician Leonard Cohen begins this chapter. Cohen, known for his beautiful and often sad music, was a pensive person in tune with his emotions, which, in Cain’s view, he masterfully represented in his art. Cain then launches an investigation in which she explores connections between creativity and sadness. She details a few studies that indicate there is indeed some connection and probes into the data that support this position. Cain then transitions into another brief anecdote, this one involving the legendary composer Beethoven. As he composed his famous piece, “Ode to Joy,” Beethoven had been struggling with personal difficulties, including becoming deaf. He composed the work from memory, and when it premiered, he was unable to hear the audience’s emphatic and teary applause. Cain mentions that while there is only one Beethoven, people should still strive to unlock their own creativity, even if that means simply interacting with the art of someone else. She mentions that during the COVID-19 pandemic, she found herself mindlessly “doomscrolling” Twitter. Unhappy with how this made her feel, Cain decided to start posting art, which had an immediate and lasting positive impact on her overall