Robin Williams: Intensity Is Not Pathology

By Douglas Eby

Robin Williams in What Dreams May ComeThe 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.”

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Idleness and Being Creative – Part 2

By Douglas Eby

[Continued from Part 1]

Idleness by John William GodwardLawton Ursery, quoted earlier, writes in his Forbes magazine article Your Brain Unplugged: Proof That Spacing Out Makes You More Effective:

“We’re taught that taking on more is better—it makes us more valuable. The reality is that doing too many things makes us less efficient.”

He notes that Andrew Smart, whom he interviewed, “argues that our ‘culture of effectiveness’ is not only ineffective, but it can be harmful to your well-being. Andrew says that in order to be more creative and more engaged, we need to unplug.”

Smart refers to research by neurologist Marcus Raichle, who “found that when subjects performed specific tasks, activity in certain brain regions, like the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, and the precuneus, was suppressed.

“This was an odd conclusion, so Raichle decided to test further subjects but didn’t give them a specific task to complete.”

Ursery explains, “The result was that the exact same regions that deactivated during concentration become super active when not focused on a specific task—this means increased blood flow in your brain—this means a healthier, happier, more creative brain.

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Idleness and Being Creative

By Douglas Eby

Between the Trees by Ellie Davies

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.”
Agatha Christie [via brainyquote.com]

We may feel pressured to stay busy and keep producing, but is there some value for developing creativity in being, if not lazy, at least idle for a time?

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Photography: Art and Healing

By Douglas Eby

A Story of a Girl and a HorsePhotographic images can be a powerful form of expression for creative people, and also a tool for therapists and anyone to help explore our inner selves.

This image by artist Jennifer Moon is titled “A Story of a Girl and a Horse: The Search for Courage.”

A news article about an installation of her photographs, sculpture and text-based works at UCLA Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014″ biennial, describes the piece as a “self-portrait, a chromogenic digital photo [that] depicts Moon on a chocolate brown horse, leaping over a bed of clouds shot through with electricity, as if she were riding a flying Unicorn.”

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Feeling Pressured To Create

By Douglas Eby

Chuck CloseOne kind of pressure is feeling an intense urge to create; it is probably an inherent part of being a creative person.

But other pressures can lead to stress and overwhelm, and being pulled away from the joys of creating.

Annemarie Roeper (founder of the Roeper School and The Roeper Review, a professional journal on the gifted) wrote about this intense inner pressure to create as a characteristic of high ability people – but you may experience this even if you are not “technically” gifted:

“Gifted adults may be overwhelmed by the pressure of their own creativity. The gifted derive enormous satisfaction from the creative process.

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The Surreal Fashion Photography of Miss Aniela

By Douglas Eby

Miss Aniela - LEGERDEMAINMost of my limited experience of fashion photography has been the occasional magazine feature or ad, and the images typically seem to me mainly designed to document the clothing.

The work of London-based fashion photographer Natalie Dybisz, who works under the name Miss Aniela, is much more complex and intriguing.

Writer Sarah Bradley describes some of how Miss Aniela works:

“Blurring the lines between art, photography, and fashion, Miss Aniela’s collection of Surreal Fashion takes us to a mysterious place where the most elaborate and fantastical dreams come to life.”

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What Kind of Creative Person Are You?

By Douglas Eby

Caltech chapter of the Society of Women EngineersWe may watch a movie or TV show, read a novel or listen to music, and appreciate that the authors, those identified as artists, are certainly “creative types” – but what about the producers and set designers?

Or the computer engineers at digital animation companies like Pixar?

The MacArthur Foundation has a mission to “support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world” and acknowledges there are many kinds of creators, awarding its renowned fellowships to a wide range of people: playwrights, novelists, dancers, botanists, economists, chemists, physicians, psychologists and many others.

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Natalie Fobes on Pursuing Creative Passion

By Douglas Eby

Natalie Fobes - pipelineHow does our self concept, our identity, affect creative expression?

How do we find creative passions and how does pursuing them demand changes in our life?

One example of an artist who has addressed these questions is Natalie Fobes.

A bio on her site summarizes some of her personal journey and work:

“Not many photographers have faced winds of 90 knots and seas of 40 feet while on a fishing boat in the middle of the Bering Sea.

“Few can describe the bitter cold of a Siberian winter while camped out with Chukchi reindeer herders. Or say that their first client was National Geographic Magazine.

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Can People With ADHD Be More Creative?

By Douglas Eby

A number of psychologists note that many personality traits connected with ADD and ADHD are also associated with highly creative people.

Lisa Ling - brain-graphicThis is a topic I have addressed in previous Creative Mind posts, but here are some new perspectives, inspired by a documentary by Lisa Ling who was diagnosed with ADD during the course of her research for the project.

She commented, “As a journalist, when I’m immersed in a story, then I feel like I can laser-focus. But if I’m not working, my mind goes in every direction but where it’s supposed to go. I’ve been like that since I was a kid.”

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Heidi Grant Halvorson on Creative Success

By Douglas Eby

Heidi Grant HalvorsonOne of the themes of creativity research, and many psychologists and creativity coaches, is how crucial beliefs and attitudes are in developing our creative abilities.

Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson talks in the audio clip below about the prevalent idea of ‘genius’ for whether someone can be creative – or even aspire to be.

She also writes about focus and creating, and that “to be a successful creative, you need to not only be a good generator, but also a good evaluator. The problem is that in practice, it’s remarkably hard to be both.

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  • Upsie_Daisy: I dont agree with her premise. I live in Los Angeles, where the movie industry regularly creates and...
  • Upsie_Daisy: Beautifully stated and a pleasure to read. I’ve absorbed this old thinking of the “mad...
  • Faller: I’m actually both but it depends on the situation. When I’m at home I prefer to be alone and do...
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