Creative Practice Can Turn Pain into Purpose: Lesson #1 from Quincy Jones’ Creative Career

Art therapists tell us creative practice can help us heal from trauma. Leaning into our trauma creatively can also help us to discover our purpose.

That shift is one of a dozen topics tackled in Quincy Jones’ new book, ’12 Notes: On Life and Creativity’.

Jones’ creative credentials are legendary. The multi-award-winning musician has spent more than 70 years in the industry, winning nearly 30 Grammy Awards.

He’s already chronicled his life in his 2001 autobiography, ‘Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones’. Now, approaching his ninetieth birthday, Jones has recorded his thoughts on creativity, starting with his earliest memories of channeling the pain from his troubled childhood into music.

The details of Jones’ trauma are hard to bear — and worth reading in his own words. His lesson is that art allows us to make sense of our experiences, giving us an outlet into which we can pour all our pain, our needs and our unexpressed emptions. Jones writes, “I’m fortunate to have figured out that pain has a voice, and music is the method of escape for mine.”

Jones muses that without the pain that permeated his childhood, he may not have found his medium or the drive with which he has pursued his craft. The knife’s edge risk is that when we don’t process and direct our pain into safe vessels, we leave it to bleed into all our relationships, with destructive consequences.

Rather than suffering in isolation with our unprocessed pain, we can use it creatively to forge both release and connection.

“[C]reativity is one of the most beautiful gifts we possess,” writes Jones. “If utilized properly, not only does it serve as an outlet, but it also holds the power to transform heartache into something beyond a singular sentiment…the very thing that was intended to destroy you can become the thing that makes you stronger.”

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