Mental Illness and Creativity

Mental Illness and Creativity

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.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

Gendered Covers for Young Adult Novels

Gendered Covers for Young Adult Novels

2013-05-23-CoverFlip2 If you’ve been paying attention to the world of publishing lately, then you’ll know there’s been a lot of complaints regarding the book covers of young adult books. They’re too gendered, appealing to one gender over another, instead of trying to appeal to both. Here is a good article on the subject. The article basically states that due to the nature of the covers, pink covers, or “girly” covers, will turn away boys and suggest that they don’t need to concern themselves with the female experience. It is acknowledged that girls will read almost anything but boys won’t, so to gender neutralize covers will draw in both. At the same time, the article also acknowledges that this isn’t full-proof because then it’s just feeding into sexism, whereby masculinity is seen as the norm, seen as gender neutral, and femininity is not.

I don’t think covers need to be gender neutralized. I don’t think that’s where the problem lies. I think the problem lies in the misrepresentation of the book, and the article does acknowledge this–briefly. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar received a rather, *ahem*, jarring cover makeover that is actually rather insulting. This cover makes the story of The Bell Jar seem frivolous. It’s not that it’s “girly”, because there is certainly nothing wrong with that. It’s that it’s completely misrepresenting what The Bell Jar is about!

images (3) I don’t even like the term “girly.” We grow up thinking pink is for girls and blue is for boys, but pink was once for boys and blue for girls. Funny how marketing changed all that.

There isn’t anything wrong with a pink cover, as long as it’s not misrepresenting what the book is about. I frankly enjoy the color pink–a light pink though, much like the satin on pointe shoes. But I rather hate the thought that boys are turned off by pink covers. We’ve made it such  a threatening color to the point where pink covers on books scare boys away. That needs to change–not the book covers, unless they’re misrepresenting the book.

I think pink is sassy, outgoing, and bold. So, pink wouldn’t fit with any of my books because my characters aren’t sassy, outgoing, or bold. But I don’t see it as inherently girly. Wanting to get rid of pink covers or anything “girly” is just feeding into sexism, and that doesn’t need to happen.

When I do my book covers, I don’t even think of the gender of my readers. When I do a book a cover, I think of an object, something symbolic, that would relay the overall theme of my novel. Then I think of a background color that would best emphasize the object and portray the book. The cover for When Stars Die has not yet been approved, but I chose a certain object that symbolizes the freedom all witches seek, but yet they’re tightly bound by the rules of their mortal world. I then painted a dark blue, snowy backdrop since the book takes place in the freezing winter, and dark blue hints at the darkness present in the book.

Of course, if this cover is not approved, I did mention what kind of cover I wanted, and it’s a cover that will emphasize the darkness in the book. It’s a paranormal romance, more heavy on the paranormal/darkness aspect than on the romance. The romance is important, but the book isn’t just about that, so to have a cover that tries to convey the romance in my book would be total misrepresentation.

Overall, what I think needs to happen with book covers is that the stories need to start being properly represented, without publishers worrying about what gender to market to. An attractive cover is an attractive cover, and I think both boys and girls can agree on this, whether or not that cover is trying to market to one gender or another. The Bell Jar, for one thing, could use a total cover overhaul. It’s completely disrespecting both Sylvia Plath and her story.