“That’s when your art becomes more and more successful in the world. It begins with treating yourself with love, respect, kindness, and compassion.”
Those quotes by coach and author Cheryl Richardson relate to her extensive writing and teaching on self-care for creative and highly sensitive people.
She is presenting “Self-Care for the Creative Soul” with Alanis Morissette – a retreat March 2-6, 2014, at Miraval Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
“Creativity is a divine madness… a gift from the gods.” Plato
“People who are getting into this archetype of the tortured poet end up really torturing themselves to death.” Sting
This mythology of madness as a fuel for creativity, or an inherent part of creative minds, continues to affect how we think of artists – and ourselves as creative people.
For example, psychiatrist and creativity author Albert Rothenberg MD commented that “Deviant behavior, whether in the form of eccentricity or worse, is not only associated with persons of genius or high-level creativity, but it is frequently expected of them.”
That is one of the dangers of this mythology: that we may consider ourselves “not crazy enough” to be creative, or that our mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression should be endured, in order to “protect” our creative power.
Preparation is often a crucial part of creative work, and many, if not most, creative people are highly sensitive – which can enhance this preparation.
With something like twenty percent of us being highly sensitive, that means there are many performers with the trait – musicians, actors, public speakers.
In her book The Highly Sensitive Person, psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD writes that public speaking or performing is “a natural for HSPs… First, we often feel we have something important to say that others have missed. When others are grateful for our contribution, we feel rewarded, and the next time is easier.
“Second, we prepare. In some situations… we can seem ‘compulsive’ to people not as determined as ourselves to prevent all unnecessary surprises. But anyone would be a fool not to ‘overprepare’ for the extra arousal due to an audience. Having prepared best, we succeed most.”
In an article of hers, Irish writer and creativity teacher Orna Ross notes a creative person may be “all too aware of their problems, but often unaware of their abilities.” She continues:
“This, allied with the fact that they live in a society that prefers linear, rational thinking and behaviour, makes them try to fit into situations that don’t suit them — and then blame themselves when that doesn’t work out.
“Hence: ‘I’m too sensitive’; ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’; ‘I think too much’.
“Over time, self-blame and lack of understanding leads many bright, creative people into marginalized lives as adults — underemployed, dissatisfied and often in tremendous psychological pain.”
“The worship of convention will never lead to astonishment.” Tama J. Kieves
Author and personal development coach Tama Kieves faced a number of challenges after graduating with honors from Harvard Law School, and felt compelled to leave her career as “an overworked attorney” to follow her “soul’s haunting desire to become a writer.”
In her book “Inspired and Unstoppable” she writes, “As a creative individual, visionary leader, independent thinker, soul-healer, or entrepreneur, it’s your birthright to utilize other talents, insights, resources, and innate strategies.
“You are not made to fit into the world…but to remake the world, heal the world, and illuminate new choices and sensibilities.”
Emma Watson on being introverted:
“People say things to me like, ‘It’s really cool that you don’t go out and get drunk all the time and go to clubs,’ and I’m just like…I appreciate that, but I’m kind of an introverted kind of person just by nature, it’s not like a conscious choice that I’m making necessarily. It’s genuinely who I am.”
She refers to the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, and notes it discusses how “if you’re anything other than an [extrovert] you’re made to think there’s something wrong with you.
“That’s like the story of my life. Coming to realize that about myself was very empowering, because I had felt like, Oh my god, there must be something wrong with me, because I don’t want to go out and do what all my friends want to do.”
[Continued from Part 1.]
“I remember when I met director Ang Lee and we were left alone. I was so shy and he was so shy neither of us said anything to each other for about 20 minutes.”
Actor Sigourney Weaver – From post: Director Ang Lee: The Artist, The Introvert.
One of the things I find really fascinating about a number of dynamic actors who have such power and presence in movies and on television, is they identify themselves as shy or introverted.
Here are a few more comments by well-known actors and other artists:
Evan Rachel Wood: “I used to not even be able to order pizza on the phone because I was just so shy. I think that’s why so much comes out on-screen, because that’s my time to let go in a safe place.”
Jane Fonda: “Acting was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, I was so shy. But I got fired as a secretary and had to earn some money.”
Nicole Kidman: “It was very natural for me to want to disappear into dark theater, I am really very shy. That is something that people never seem to fully grasp because, when you are an actor, you are meant to be an exhibitionist.”
Many actors, writers and other creative people are considered shy or introverted, or identify themselves as one or both. These are not the same thing, of course, although many people may talk about others, or themselves, as “shy” when they are perhaps introverted. More on the distinction later.
But why would Introversion fit so well with creative expression?
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung identified it as a core personality trait, and The Myers & Briggs Foundation page “Extraversion or Introversion” describes qualities for Introversion: “I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.”
One example of these qualities: J.K. Rowling – who notes on her website that she first had the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 when she was traveling alone on a train: “I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…”
She added, “I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain…”
[Continued from Asperger's and Creativity Part 2]
Quirks and creativity
Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at NYU interested in intelligence and creativity development, commented in a post of his:
“I think a lot of things that we call ‘quirks’, or maybe even some things we call ‘disabilities’, can turn out to be some of the determinants of high levels of creativity that we never could plan ahead of time.”
From Conversations on Creativity with Darold Treffert, Part I: Defining Autism, Savantism, and Genius.
[Photo from his video "Creativity" - see a clip in my post Don’t You Have To Be “Gifted and Talented” To Be Creative?]
In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman writes about many aspects of the syndrome, and notes that people with Asperger’s tend to do “exceptionally well on perceptual tests of fluid reasoning, such as the Raven’s progressive matrices test.”
[Continued from Asperger's and Creativity Part 1]
A number of movies and TV shows have characters who show characteristics associated with autism – with varying degrees of accuracy, according to critics – including “Touch,” “Parenthood,” physicist Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” and forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan on “Bones.”
The photo is actor Thomas Horn in the powerful movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as Oskar, a “nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist who searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001″ [imdb.com].
The photo is from the article “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Familiar” by Beth Arky, (Child Mind Institute), who noted “Autism advocates embrace the movie, and slam critics who disparage the hero.”