Monday, May 5, 2008

Creativity & Madness

The Nashville Goal-Attainment Meetup begins Tuesday, May 13 at 6 pm. Please sign up for this empowering group at I'll be guiding people through a supportive process of getting to the goals they've already chosen. This is the Getting It Done! chance for success! Creative and everyday goals are welcome.

Time Management for Creative People will be presented at the Songwriter’s Guild of America in June. June is soon, people! Please go to to sign up. I’ll be presenting the seminar over two evenings: Thursdays, June 19th and 26th. First step in Time Management: put it on your calendars now! We’ll be talking about organizing, scheduling, and a lot more than that! As usual in my workshops, I’ll be addressing the special issues creative folks face in accomplishing left-brain activities such as managing time. We’ll be doing some fun right-brain activities, too. Conquering time management (yes, wear your chain-mail outfits!) leaves you more time to succeed with your creative endeavors! So, what are you waiting for? Seating is (really and truly) limited, so reserve now. Kimberly’s waiting to hear from you!

Website News might be up within the week. Feel free to say a little cyber-prayer for me, if you feel so moved. I spent a lot of time yesterday with my brilliant Web-designer/mistress Debbie Gordon ( reviewing what’s left before going live. I have a lot of writing to do this week. Lance has a lot of video editing to do this week. And Debbie has a lot of magic tricks to do to wrest “UPositive” domain from Yahoo! Seems Yahoo has spent the last few years tricking people and kidnapping their domain names; if you’ve signed up for “private” registration on there, you may never get your name back. We’ll see---I’m in Nashville, after all, and “when in Nashville, do as the streets do…change your name midway between here and there.” I’m thinking of starting a class-action suit against Yahoo, so if any of you have had a similar problem, please let me know. In the meantime, I’m still using as an email addy.

Creativity and Madness
There’s an annual conference with this name, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico every summer. I’d love to go, but haven’t gotten there yet. It’s arranged by the American Institute of Medical Education, which may explain the list of topics, which often include studies of specific artists/writers/etc. who have cut off ears, stuck heads in gas ovens, raged naked through the streets…you get the idea. They also have a smattering of talks overlaying psychotherapeutic theories on the works of various earlier artists (so they can’t argue, I suppose), as well as one or two discussions about First-Peoples’ approaches to emotional healing (wherein creativity and spirituality were more likely to mix).

Do you detect a hint of cynicism here? (who me?)

I’ve long disdained the myth (my term) that creative people are more likely than the general population to be “mad,” or suffering from mental illness, or the converse: that the mentally ill are more likely than the general population to be creative. For the past 20+ years I’ve worked with creative people as well as in community mental health clinics, where I’ve seen the entire gamut of diagnoses and a very wide range of individuals (age, size, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, political leaning, etc.). While there were certainly some very creative folks that sat across the therapy room from me, I seriously doubt the percentage was higher than if I’d been sitting in a large restaurant, or Grand Central Station. I ran a writing group for a clinic that served the recently-detoxed substance abuse population of Brooklyn, NY. Some absolutely brilliant pieces came out the ink end of their pens, but so did some poorly written work.

Last week the New York Times printed an article about this topic. They came to a similar conclusion: that no, you don’t need a mental health diagnosis---or the symptoms---to be creative. And mental illness is not a prerequisite for creativity. A number of highly successful writers reported that they would have been even more productive without the ups and downs of bipolar disorder; or the periodic, devastating inability to accomplish anything resulting from severe depression; or the fear of creating something imperfect stemming from anxiety.

So what does it take in order to be creative that has fed the myth of creativity-and-madness?

In talking with my friend (and struggling writer) Rose Marie, I came upon the theory that creativity requires an intense connection to the experience of life. The courage, I’d say (see previous blog on this topic), to let your defenses down and allow yourself to really feel the world around you, the people around you, the emotions and reactions and beliefs and energies that are present. Sometimes these are heart-wrenchingly sad, sometimes quake-in-the-boots scary, sometimes gut-shakingly funny.

Rather than requiring “madness,” which in all its forms distorts how we experience life, creativity requires strength, opening to intense emotion and thought, reaching our center, the clarity of hope and possibility. Creativity is more "magic" than "madness": you put life in one end and out the other comes a poem, a dance, a painting, a statue. Or like alchemy: put in base metals and produce the gold.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, arguments, questions about this topic! Perhaps your experience proves me wrong? Perhaps you’ve struggled with one or the other side of creativity-and-madness in your life? Please share your thoughts---whatever they are. Thanks!