Art and Insanity: is there risk involved in artistic creation?
William Schultz has just posted a blog entry regarding how artistic creation may have an associated risk of suicide/ depression/ psychosis and how exploring the depths of one’s psyche may lead one to the downward spiral that ends with taking one;s own life. He gives Sylvia Plath and Diane Arbus as examples and I agree with his basic premise that writers/ artists are especially vulnerable to extreme mental states as they try to explore the depths of human experience by imagining the extremes that are possible.
I ,myself, consider myself to have moderately good writing talent, and have found that when I write literature , be it poems or short stroies or novellas, the theme of the creation starts taking its hold. this is most apparent when for example I recently added a few sonnets to my epic-in-making The Fools Quest. The initial sonnets depict a person who is on a brink of new journey, somewhat facing an existential angst and in general questioning both his past and his future. now, though, I myself am very well adjusted and happy with my life as it is going, just creating in myself the protagonists mindset led to a state where I myself started feeling restless, unsatisfied and in general more eager for change and willing to rock the boat. This may seem anecdotal evidence, but there is good statistics showing prevalence of mental health disorders in artists in general and writers in particular.
I would now quote a bit from Schultz’ post (italics mine):
What’s going on here? It’s more than a little uncanny. As Wendell Berry once said: “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark.” Both Plath and Arbus knew the dark, but this knowing came at a massive price. The dark stayed dark. Forever. Some artists–not all–do not survive the hero’s quest. Maybe, when the moment comes, they lack the requisite “ego strength” to re-compose after the decompensation that a certain category of art requires. Or else: once they achieve genius, the question becomes: Where do I go from here? Having reached the top of the mountain, there is nothing left but the descent, and the idea of descending is simply intolerable, ultimately depressing.
I don’t know, whether my quest is a hero’s quest or a fool’s quest , but I definitely know that I have slowed down as I saw that the quest was affecting my mood. Hopefully, as the quest moves to more adventurous phases and away from the initial dilemmas , it would have more uplifting effects. Hopefully, I wont fall from the cliff like my Fool is planning to!
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