I’d like to thank litebeing chronicles for inspiring me to write this post.
People have this conception that a prerequisite to creativity is some form of mental illness. After all, don’t you have to be some sort of mad to spend hours on some piece of art that may never see the light of day? I suppose so, but then there are a variety of mental illnesses out there, some that might enhance creativity, and others that may inhibit it.
I can only speak as a person with bipolar disorder who has gone through mania, hypomania, mixed states, and depressive episodes. I can’t speak for any other type of mental illness, like schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder or panic disorder or even borderline personality disorder. So my experiences with creativity, or lack thereof, only come from my experiences with my own mental illness.
Mental illness can enhance creativity in some aspects. I never hallucinated during my manic episodes, but the fast, racing thoughts and overexcitement of life seemed to have resurrected dead creative brain cells that were lying dormant in their little graves. Stolentime was partly the product of a manic episode and mostly the product of my sanity working through what my mania came up with. Of course, the novel was a completely different story then, but only because my mania had no filter and no way to logically structure a story. So while my mania came up with an idea, it couldn’t bring that idea to proper fruition because the thoughts I had were too grandiose and I couldn’t look at reality properly. I was completely delusional, so to speak.
I once read some of Van Gogh’s paintings were a product of his mania, but there was no mention whether he painted them while he was manic or after he was manic because mania can give you thousands of ideas, most that you’re not even going to remember.
But depression inhibited my creativity. My brain was so weighed down by this thick, heavy black fog that it couldn’t come up with anything new. It kept trying to grasp on to those ideas it came up with during mania, but it didn’t have the energy to put any sort of logic to them. However, I do think some writers have used their depression to their advantage. Apparently Sylvia Plath wrote her final novel when depressed before ending her own life, so it is possible to write while depressed–just very, very difficult. I couldn’t really brainstorm Stolentime while depressed, but I had enough in me to work on When Stars Die because it didn’t take whole re-writes.
Overall, I think mental illness can enhance creativity, but after the fact. It’s very difficult to enact creative processes while ill, but that doesn’t mean one can’t use one’s illness as a source of inspiration–might as well make something good come from the bad, right?