The tone of a number of responses to the suicide of Robin Williams seem based in the insidious “Crazy Artist” mythology: that artistic creativity depends on mental disorder.
A number of people have expressed the idea that his brilliance and creative comic energy were fueled by his “demons” including addiction and bipolar depression.
One example was columnist Meghan Daum, who wrote: “As an actor and a comic, his emotional pendulum swung in a wide arc between manic ebullience and almost Zen-like sincerity.
“And the ease with which he occupied both realms…must surely be a kind of bipolar magic.”
“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.
[See Part 1]
Many artists use creative expression to explore and express pain in life, but does creative work itself have to be painful for most of us?
Frida Kahlo painted a series of self-portraits as a depiction of the years of treatment (including orthopedic appliances) she had to endure after a devastating spinal cord injury as a teenager.
See more in article: Pain and suffering and developing creativity.
Creativity coach and author Julia Cameron comments on part of the challenge of being actively creative:
“Creativity involves process, and process involves change. The truism we often hear is that we often resist change because change is difficult or change is painful.
“This is not quite accurate. It is the resistance to change that is difficult or painful. In the same way, it is the resistance to our creativity that causes us to equate it with suffering.”
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.”
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.”
Creativity coach Lisa A. Riley comments, “I have encountered a connection between highly sensitive people and their own creative impulses.” Psychologist Elaine Aron declares, “I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.”
From my post Being Highly Sensitive and Creative.
Even if you are not working in an obviously “creative” job or career, if you are highly sensitive [see Dr. Aron's self-test] you can benefit emotionally and spiritually from engaging with and making use of your creative abilities. That is, of course, also true for the other 80 percent of people who are not highly sensitive, but especially for those of us who are.
Psychologist Ted Zeff, among others, notes the personality trait of high sensitivity can be particularly challenging for men, especially in this culture.
But many boys and men find that creative expression is enhanced by the many positive qualities of the trait.
Writer and entrepreneur Peter Messerschmidt [aka 'Denmarkguy'], who – like myself – identifies as being highly sensitive, writes in one of his informative articles on the topic of highly sensitive men (HSM) and how much they “accept” or make use of this aspect of their personality.
He notes, “One group– typically the largest– display all the characteristics of high sensitivity, but forcefully deny and reject the possibility that they are ‘sensitive.’
Author Susan Cain declares: “Without introverts, the world would be devoid of: the theory of gravity; the theory of relativity; W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming”; Chopin’s nocturnes; Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; Peter Pan…”
She quotes science journalist Winifred Gallagher: “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement.
“Neither E = mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.”
In an article on leadership, Susan Cain gives a number of examples of “effective Asian-American leaders” including Lee, and others: “novelist Chang Rae-Lee; fashion designer Vera Wang; New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani…the list goes on and on.”
One of the stars of “Life of Pi,” Adil Hussain, described how the Taiwanese filmmaker works.
He commented that Ang Lee is “so sensitive and the way he directs you is so silent. He’d whisper into your ear what he has to say.