31 January 2013

Creative Intensity Or Madness?


“If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.”—Socrates

Many creative individuals have experienced sudden surges, flooded with creative intensity as if an arrow laced with their muse struck them. The cycle accelerates productivity with their art lasting for days, even weeks at a time. Engrossed in the moment saturated with ideas, some will work viciously, with little sleep or food. It’s as if creative energy is what fuels them during this interlude producing a temporary state of immortality. Commonly following such a ride is a retreat back into their cave, often in seclusion, as if to recover and hibernate. However, during this down time the creative process is not completely dormant. Instead the artist is regrouping, reorganizing and ideas are incubating for the next eruption.

Artists have been notoriously criticized for their shifting bouts of creativity, often misinterpreted as erratic moods swings. Throughout history many artists, unable to manage the power of their own muse were sucked under by the undertow, hence why the words “madness” and “artist” went hand in hand.

In the mental health spectrum such cycles are diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder. Although, many creative individuals do suffer from Manic-Depression and require medication to manage the disorder, how about those who don’t fit the criteria? Those who are able to keep one foot anchored during the ebb and flow of their own creative intensity with little disruption to their lives.

Not all artists lose sense of reality, but are very aware of their own artistic temperament. They are able to prepare and brace themselves for the storm ahead. They ride it out while utilizing its energy to fuel their art. Artists look forward to such cycles, which gave birth to some of their most innovative ideas and embrace the journey.

When the artist is able to know him or her self well enough to accept these cycles without judgment and learn the skills to create a healthy environment that will tame what is tempestuous, it becomes an ally in the creative process. The artist transforms what was once perceived as madness and into a powerful force that can help them reach levels in their creativity they never predicted.

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”—Edgar Allan Poe

top image from The Creative Finder.

This is a cross-post from The Art of Mind.

Lisa A Riley, MA, LMFT is a Creativity Coach and has spent more than nine years working with creative individuals such as artists, actors, designers, musicians, writers, and actors. She “helps to empower clients to take steps towards enhancing their creativity and move closer to becoming the artist they envisioned themselves to be”. See her multiple ‘Products for Your Creative Success’ on her site The Art of Mind.