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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Chp 228. Creative people & Mental breakdown

Many creative people ranging from artists to writers to Admen suffer from manic depression. The remaining are also highly prone to mental breakdown due to the enormous load and stress involved at work. For those of us in the creative field, mental instability has become just another part of our usual life, because we do not follow any “normal” schedule at work.

Interesting read @

Is Creativity A Symptom Of Bipolar Disorder?

Numerous famous poets, writers, composers, and artists were afflicted with bipolar disorder. But, does bipolar disorder cause an increase in creativity or are those who have exceptional levels of creativity prone to developing bipolar disorder?

It is a known fact that work stress leads to depression, diabetes, heart diseases etc just to name a few.

Here in advertising, coming up with “a strong idea” at the click of the finger may not be very difficult, but coming up with twenty different such ideas and working 72 hours straight in office is what drives many of us to pouring a glass of whisky much earlier (and much more) than other people, or popping that “funny looking pill” or puffing a cigarette that doesn’t smell like one…

Another reason for a mental breakdown is when we come up with an excellent masterpiece (a painting, a movie, a song, a book, an Ad campaign, or even a blog post) and then not being able to outdo ourselves the next time no matter how hard we try while a lot of people are expecting so much from us because of our previous success…

…that can drive anybody crazy.

The other day my boss Meghana sent me this link, which I think is the best pep-talk I’ve ever heard since I joined this Industry.

“Genius” by Elizabeth Gilbert


A must watch, people. Especially those of you who are in the creative field or people who are under a lot of stress and pressure from work.

The gist of the show – basically, how to cope with failures after a brief success, or identifying “your genius” as an external element.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how writers and creative people have a notorious reputation of being alcoholic manic depressive with a very grim death-rate in the 20th century alone - many creative people died young at their own hands.

“Creativity and suffering are inherently linked” and “Artistry in the end always leads to anguish” are some of her quotes. “The thought that your greatest success is behind you and that you will never out-do yourself again, makes you drink gin at 9 in the morning”, she stated nonchalantly.

She looked back in time to see how creative people coped with this emotional risk. In ancient Greece and ancient Rome, the people believed creativity is not from human beings, but rather a divine spirit that comes from an unknowable source. Greeks (like Socrates) called it daemons. Romans called it genius.

Hence due to this transcendent being, a person was under a much lesser stress (if his work was lame, it’s simply because his genius/daemon was lame!) and it also brings about humility instead of narcissism as the artist couldn’t take all the credit if his work was a grand success (“his genius/daemon did all the work while he just sat on his fat ass the whole day”) !!

It was only during the dawn of the renaissance that rational thinking set in and people “realized” it was man who was creative and not a spirit. Elizabeth felt this was a HUGE mistake and hence the reason why young creative minds today go mad and die early.

She also talks about the experiences of notable poetess Ruth Stone and musician Tom Waits, who have both experienced this external force of creativity trying to “thunder through their body” and that if they didn’t find a paper and pen in time to scribble out the experience, they would miss “it”. Seriously, how many times have you experienced this sudden formation of ideas within your head for no reason at all, sometimes at the oddest hours? I have, many times, especially in the loo.

I think I can sum up Elizabeth Gilbert’s final message as this: Instead of believing creativity comes from you, if you start believing your creativity is just on a loan from somebody, this way of thinking will change everything for you, giving you much more peace and serenity within yourself and at work.


I’ve been trying a lot these days to think in this manner, and believe me, treating “genius” as an external entity has helped a lot. Boss calls me to office and asks sternly, “Why the hell were you browsing porn from office?” and I calmly reply, “Hey, don’t blame me boss! It was my genius at work.”

Ok all jokes aside, I think this is a brilliant idea. Try to treat “genius” as an external being, although take care that you don’t develop a Multiple Personality Disorder while doing it (don’t give him a name or talk to him when you are alone, for starters!)

Relax and don’t panic or strain yourself when you’re not able to come up with anything for a particular client. Just consider it as one of those days your genius drank a little too much the previous night with his genius pals in the local genius tavern and is still passed out back home. Take a deep breath and wait for your genius to recover and come back to you.

Peace out.


Pixie said...

Interesting read...
But, to check out the video - I need to go home! :P
No access from work place...
But, yea - I was completely stressed out at my previous organisation and that didn't help in any way... it only led to aggravated health issues...
So far, its been better here...and I have learnt also not to stress too much abt trivial things...
Will comment again after listening/seeingn the video.

Unknown said...

Have you ever heard of the Psychologist who gave a two hours lecture on the topic "Human Attention Span lasts only 40 minutes". It's an informative - albeit lengthy - post but you just gave me that 'Headache', usually associated with 'Geniuses' with 'Creative Thinking'..He he he.

Since I'm neither 'Creative' nor a 'Corporate Honcho' there is no cause for alarm.

But have you ever tried working in a Government Sector, amongst Bongs, where Unionism is legalized. I think it is easier to please a single Boss than trying to unravel the 'Bong Mystery' - They sure give you a mental breakdown almost everyday.

vana said...

Kim, this same idea was said by one of my friend, and i find it very intresting. Thanks for taking your precious time to explain what she cannot explain to my satisfaction.

Mizohican said...

@ Pixie: I do hope you can watch this video. It is absofreakinglutely brilliant! Looking forward to your comment again :)

@ chhangte_II: Hotupa, I guess you too must be facing such a stress too. In the end, all stress lead to the same thing and we need to be extremely careful on how we deal with it.

Pleasing one boss is easy, as you mentioned. But in my line of work, it is not the boss we try to please, but the client, and that gives us the maximum frustration on many occasions.

@ Vana: The pleasure is all mine, bro. Im glad I could make it clear to you. It is indeed a very interesting concept, and quite a radical one too!

Pixie said...

i saw the video... but, way too sleepy to actually put in a serious comment! :P
So, you know - what I would say right?! :P

will come back again tomorrow, and comment! :D

(This was to increase the comment count to 5 - not that you need this sort of thing, but anyways... its done with and you may thank me! :P )

Anonymous said...

creativity does'nt bloom in my room these days. i dont know what happened, i ve been watering my garden of ingenuity daily with tlc, but i just don't seem to get to work.
i dont know how you do it..

Zorami said...

alcoholism and stress/creativity - I don't think that's a neat barter:-(
U see, i'm STRessiNG on the "alcoholism" part.No!I'm nt saying ur one, and u won't need to join 'AA' anytime soon =) Don't let the recession wear u out!Try enjoying ur drink@tavern in ur sleep....this will work :-)

Zorami said...

alcoholism and stress/creativity - I don't think that's a neat barter:-(
U see, i'm STRessiNG on the "alcoholism" part.No!I'm nt saying ur one, and u won't need to join 'AA' anytime soon =) Don't let the recession wear u out!Try enjoying ur drink@tavern in ur sleep....this will work :-)

Aduhi Chawngthu said...

Interesting topic. Let me air my views a bit. I kind of find it hard to accept creativity being a symptom of Bipolar Disorder. I don't know anyone with BD but isn't it a bit extreme saying all creative people suffer from bipolar disorder? Can't you be a normal person and still be creative? I read the link you provided, it's very convincing but it also says "people with bipolar disorders and very creative people tend to share some of the same personality traits."

But your argument is also very plausible. Stress coupled with high levels of expectancy from higher ups to outdo yourself every time could very well lead to a mental breakdown.

And "genius” as an external element? Hard to accept. Genius is innate, we are born with it or we are not. I can't imagine some "external force of creativity trying to thunder through my body”. I do agree there are moments when brilliant ideas strike and if I don't grab a pen and write it down it flies away, but some external force hitting me from nowhere?? I don't think so. I still like to believe it comes from within me.

The Chhamanator said...

Actually, I didn't write this comment to comment on anything. I just want to bring to your notice that Zorami has entered the same comment twice. It located at two comments from this comment. Please dont treat this comment as a comment. Aah!! what the heck, good post. Informative and all..

Mizohican said...

@ Pixie: lolz, your way of giving me pity comments is cute :P But I don't mind, after all, you're doing all these with your new hair color! :D

@ gkhiangte: Wait for it to thunder through your body! Mahse a rawn "thunder through" lai khan vawih awihloh auh, chutilo chu a leak chhuak thren palh ang, i thluak a rawn thleng hma in :D

@ zorami: I don't know why you're getting so freaked out about this. You know I don't drink, right? :D Well, I am not saying stress+creativity leads to alcoholism, but back in 2005, some of my best posts were written while I was under the influence of alcohol. I used to think much better like that. That, I believe, is a true blogaholic. :D

@ Chhamanator: Thanx for leaving not a comment. The comment you did not leave has a very valid point, which I did not read because you did not leave one. :P

@ Aduhi: Yep, that article is definitely interesting. It brings out a lot of debatable questions, both scientific and irrational. In the end, it sounds more like "What comes first, the chicken or the egg?"

It may be hard to believe just like that, that "genius" is an external element and not inborn, but what Elizabeth was trying to show, was ways to relief oneself from stress. Like I said earlier, it is a very radical idea, but one cant say it doesn't hold water either. She also talked about spirituality in her video, which is very interesting, especially for Mizos.

Pixie said...

dAh.. yes! it's the "hair colour" talking!!! LOL

I am a pretty cute person you know! (I can be very modest when it's required!!:P)

Anonymous said...

Nice insight on creativity. The world has indeed lost many great artists to substance-abuse, and I guess "Genius is as genius does". Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vincent van Gogh in fine arts, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and the great Elvis in music and Heath Ledger in Acting, just to name a few.
I'd like to think of genius as a creative devil which resides in our higher state of conciousness :) (Pardon the cliche!)

claytonia vices said...

Very interesting topic.

You are so right! Creative people who have trouble are the ones according to me who have not learnt to be detached. And yes, having a strong spirituality helps develop that detachment.

I used to paint/draw a lot and a suddenly stopped at around 10th std just because I realised I was being swallowed into it because of my attachment to it. My identity was becoming more and more 'attached' to it to the extent that I started thinking I am an 'artist' and not anyone else. The mistake we do there is to stop remembering that we have so many identities: student to a teacher, friend to a friend, son/daughter to a parent, a certain professional while working, and a dancer in the dance class... the mistake lies in getting caught up with just one of these because we like it and then getting depressed when we don't get that identity to be successful all the time.

If we see why Rahman is one of the most sane while still being one of the most creative composers in the world we will get all our answers. He has found THE WAY. I know I have so much to learn from him. I always read his interviews coz it is interesting to see what he has to say about his relationship with his work. It is his detached-ness is one of the things that keeps him sane and down to earth...

As soon as u mentioned 'narcissism' I could not help thinking of some artists in the film industry who are so infatuated with their own work! Some used to comment that Rahman is 'just a jungle composer' :D

claytonia vices said...

oops, that's 'jingle composer' :D

claytonia vices said...

And I think psychologically creative people tend to be more sensitive and emotional than other people and they need a very strong support system to survive.

I do think that the 'eccentric manic depressive genius' is a stereotype to some extent... I know quite a few creative people who do not fit into it :)

Your article is making me think a lot on this, so I keep coming back to write one more thought that just got into my head. :D

Mizohican said...

@ claytonia: lolz. I know, the call of creativity is alluring :D And it must mean a lot for you because of your intense photography creativity. See, we are all on the same boat.

Yeah I do agree most creative people tend to be more sensitive. Even I have observed this among many of my peers. I guess in a way, thats what makes us creative because we need to explore the humane side of us much more deeper than others.

A.R.Rahman truly is the King and one person I genuinely admire in terms of creativity. Comon, I was brought up in the South. I knew about him looooong before the rest of India knew :-) And of course, you may be able to say he is one person not affected by such pressure, but again, he is quite a recluse, so you never know. :-) Bottom line, he roxxx!

@ Blackestred: Kurt Cobain is an epitome of creativity. His style was quite radical and new back then, and Goddd I used to love him! Till now, I cannot stop listening to his numbers. It is indeed really sad that he had to go so early. Do you know he was high on "cool" (cough syrup) most of the time :-)

@ Pixie: hahaha. Yeah, it must be. lolz. I know, people who claim in public that they are cute are usually cute in real life too... oh comon! I wasnt being sarcastic. Now why are you giving me that looks? shooo... dont give me that looks. :D

faka said...

Interesting and informative indeed! I have to examine myself very carefully to know whether I'm among the people 'at risk' or not:) That's all I can say at the moment:)

Sekibuhchhuak said...

Big Boss,tunlai chu i blog hi ka comment hleithei mang tlat lo thin a. Heipawh hi A test nan kan rawn comment leh ani. Ahmasa a i post, hmasa zawk pawh kha, comment ka ziak teuh a, ka publish dawn a error a awm a. Kan ram atang hi chuan buaithlak chang hi amw thin a. Tih hi kan sawi phawt a ni e :)

Tharax said...

bombay ah ka rawn zin zuai a sunday vawi hnih feb 22 & march 1 khan in biak in hanging garden bulah khan ka rawn inkhawm a, ka hmu der lo che. i inkhawm khat deuh a ni maw? hna lamah a tul a nih hi ka ti rilru a.

Malsawmi Jacob said...

Hope you aren't about to break down with all the factors and situations. Do take a break, at whatever cost, rather than a breakdown, okay?

Blind Dayze said...

.....I have a really2 big ego so i don't think im ever gonna think in this manner when i have "creative" block...or for that matter when i come up with some great work...[yea right...i never really did this...i was helped by my genius/daemon..although this actually refers to maybe my alter-ego..confusing?]...he hee...

anyways in general..besides creative blocks and alcoholic binges etc...big egos are very much conspicious features of the "Creative" individual... or maybe just me ... :-) im more of a Procrastinator than a Creator....

Mizohican said...

@ Sekibuhchhuak: Grand Master Sekibuhchhuak, a va pawi ve chung tiangte a lo nih chu. i comment te hi ka chhiar ve chak a sin. Keipawh ka comment dawn apaing chuan ka copy phawt zel, error a awm palh hlauh a, retrieve leh theih si loh hian a ninawm duh lutuk! :-)

@ Tharax: Nia, nizan khan Benjamin nge Saia te khan min hrilh a i rawn kal thu kha. MSYM meeting an neihnaah ka tel ve a, hehehe. A pawi khawp mai, kan buai lai a nia tunlai tak hi, bakah leave lak ka tuma, chuvang chuan training pek tur an tam lutuka.

@ Mesjay: Yup Pi Mesjay, thats why I am planning to take a month's leave in April. Plus its my sister's wedding so hopefully this will refresh me a bit (hopefully in CAPs)

@ Blind Dayz: LOLZ, yeah I guess sometimes its hard not to have a big ego. Sometimes our job demands of it too. hehehe. I never procrastinate though. Its something I never do since school days. phew! :-)

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more re creativity originating from an external force..first came across this idea in "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. It's a great book to unlock creativity. Good read for anyone, even just to consider the ideas; but you really do have to commit to it to get proper benefit.

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