Face of mania
Daily life poems

Creator Mania: Is there a price for creativity?

Let’s talk about mania and creativity.

Manic static state.

State your crime (if you have a spine).

Confession: Laughing too loud in an ominous, dark, quiet land.

Lol-cruising. Why does this happen when I don’t sleep?

Musing at night, or is it the day?

My head bounces and my energy amplifies.

Plugged in to the power bank of life.

No rest for the wicked –

That is until you crash.

Where it started: I felt insane but creatively alert

At the start of the week, I toyed with having longer days, since I stayed up longer than I’m used to.

Trying to prove to myself that less sleep means more productivity.

In particular, a manic state can lead to many night-time inventions.

In a ruthless, unfruitful path, to locate validation I looked up art that was created in a manic state.

Creative genius or simply a mood disorder?

Genius thoughts please fall on me. That is what many people think from outside of the thinking cloud.

Thankfully, I am not a genius, so I never had to worry about that. Phew.

Nor am I particularly creative. But the notion of “Am I crazy” often perpetuates in my brain. Oftentimes, too afraid to let go.

Petrified of letting my creativity naturally let loose, in case I don’t make it back to reality.

Perhaps, it is the intense attention society gives to the slight quirks of famous people that planted this illogical idea in my head. Either way, here we are.

However, this homely person is un-interesting. Since I am not at the level of creativity of famous people who proudly outed themselves as manic.

Blurred face mania

What is creativity?

For the sake of argument, creativity, in the scope of this blog post is a published and well-read music, art, or writing piece.

Creativity is also understood as a type of divergent thinking, which is how some people measure creativity.

For instance, a person’s ability to come up with multi-layered solutions to open-ended questions.

Maybe, that is the type of creativity we are most familiar with in school and job interviews.

Since there are various levels of creativity, I did not want to get into all that.

Rather, my focus is on the famous and grand cases linked to those I admire.

Mostly, biographical accounts of mood disorders or mania are documented by artists themselves in literature.

Creative sleep?

Watering thoughts.

Relatedly, let your eyes blink quickly in your sleep.

The quicker the better. Ok, that is not something we can control.

Yet, narcolepsy, is a phenomenon where you fall into the spell of sleep, directly into rapid eye movement.

You took the shortcut home to sleep. Letting you “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or lucid sleep.

Inevitably, dreaming while knowing you are dreaming. This helps and even increases your creativity.

Creator self-described mania

Oh shucks. I am not into labeling others or listening to others label them either.

This is why narrative pieces and autobiographies of people who self describe themselves as manic or bipolar interest me.

Since it means, this is a part of them they wanted to be seen. Possibly, even understood.

In this vein, the following 3 artists documented their struggles with a type of bipolar disorder:

  • Kate Millett is an artist, who was in-and-out of mental hospitals. Hating every second of being committed to the “Loony Bin”. Even writing the book, “The loony-Bin Trip”.
  • David Lachapelle, is an artist, with cyclical depression. Arguably, some of his best work was created in a manic state.
Photo was taken from itsliquid
  • Sam Gilliam, is an artist who developed a form of abstract art from color field painting. He also used to take lithium to treat his bipolar disorder. Notably, he blamed lithium for damaging his ability to create art.
Photo of Sam Gilliam taken from mutualart

Today, a lot of research supports Kraepelin’s claim that mania increases creativity.

Further, documented by the careers of famous artists like the composer, Robert Schumann, who was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Notably, his positive mood was related to an increased quantity of his work.

Suicide, art, and mania

Are the geniuses the lucky or cursed ones?

Maybe, a bit of both. Famously, Vincent Van Gough lived his share of time with mood disorders.

Thankfully, for the art lovers, 300 of his most captivating art pieces were produced during his ‘depressive’ phase.

Struggle adds a human and personal element to these seemingly untouchable creative beings.

Just like us, they fall, laugh, and smile. Maybe, struggling even more than us.

But they leave us little presents to remember them by.

One of the earliest quantitive studies on creativity and mental illness covered 15 writers from a workshop, at the University of Iowa. Strikingly, 80 % of the writers had a type of mood disorder.

Still, the research is narrow. Since the marvel of genius is limited to a select few.

In many ways, the more we dig, the more research returns to the primary suggestion, that there is an element of insanity to genius.

Then again, it could be because most documentations of creativity and genius are about famous people.


Breaking the evil step-mom mentality of creativity

Finally, there is a stigma on creative brains, that I fall into believing too. The notion of “artistic temperaments and mad geniuses“.

Movies like A Beautiful Mind put the beauty and human struggle of genius into perspective.

Aristotle even boldly declared,

No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.

Perhaps, he is right. I would not know. My musings of geniuses are by looking at pages of others’ grandeur.

However, I hate that when I think of creativity, my mind implicitly goes to the concept of insanity.

Treating creativity like the step-child of mood disorders. It is not.

Geniuses who do not have mood disorders are creative. There are also people with mood disorders who are not geniuses.

Do all geniuses struggle?

Some personalities are geniuses and struggle. Others do not struggle as much.

Amid fascination, we should try to be sensitive to the fact, that there is living breathing (if still alive) human behind the art.

Yes, we can critique their art. But what gives us the right to analyze their mood disorder, mania, or lack thereof.

Why does it matter?

We all struggle with something.

Finally, I leave you the words, from a poem I wrote, when I thought my insanity was linked to writing: The death of my words will be the birth of my sanity.

Hiding Mania

Raise your hand if you are a non-genius but still struggle.

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