Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
The truth is, I probably should have had myself committed on more than one occasion, and the only thing that kept me from signing off on that was the fear they wouldn’t let me have my computer in there. I wouldn’t be able to write.
Only half-kidding, but you see the point. Creativity seems fairly closely related to madness at times. Artists seem to see the world differently than normal folk. If they didn’t, then everyone would be normal, or everyone would be artists.
Well, now there’s some scientific evidence that creativity, autism, and schizophrenia are all on the same genetic spectrum. Not all that surprising, when you think about it.
This piece in Scientific American, citing another study as well, goes into the details. I won’t try to describe the various psychological elements involved, but suffice to say if you’re an introvert like me and you often see details that other people don’t see, you might have a seat on that spectrum too.
Creativity, to me, has always been about finding connections that aren’t necessarily apparent. The art of the metaphor. It’s a mode of open-mindedness that allows for relationships that don’t make sense on the surface, that might seem contradictory or illogical to the average Joe’s mind. And if the artist isn’t too close to the mad end of the spectrum, she generally has the freedom to explore such connections without fear of being institutionalized. It’s kind of a handshake deal with society: I get to paint pictures that look like a monkey barfed up a baked Alaska on the linoleum, and you (society) leave me alone because I’m kind of entertaining to you.
As the article points out, though, creativity isn’t limited to the arts. It’s a powerful mode in the sciences, business, sports — just about every field of human endeavor. Creativity is the force that pushes us past the status quo. It doesn’t let us sit on our laurels (which only results in crushed laurels). It makes us look around for new solutions to old problems as well as new problems we might not have known we had.
Yes, there are many examples of the tortured artist on hand. It almost seems like bipolar disorder is part and parcel of the job. Van Gogh, Mozart, Einstein, you name it. This is probably because seeing all those bizarre connections is taxing, and a little scary. You can’t really talk about them till you produce your work of art. Nobody understands. They look at you funny. You come across at parties like Werner Herzog talking obsessively about chickens. Everyone moves away from you.
The creative artist. It’s a lousy job but somebody has to do it. Let’s give it to the borderline schizophrenics! After all, as Pink Floyd says, “Got to keep the loonies on the path.”
(Image: The First Book of Urizen, Plate 7, by William Blake.)