19 November 2011

Discuss: "Depression makes you more creative." and/or "Depressives are more creative."

By Nia and Soledad


Nia: I've heard this discussion several times over the years but when I start to think about it I just come up with more questions.

When people say more creative, do they mean more talented? Capable of producing better quality art?

I have found that introverts assume extroverts are shallow and I think depressives have the same feelings about non-depressives, especially if they (the mood-challenged) are saddled with depression early in life. They want to find some meaning or payoff in all the misery. They tell themselves they are more sensitive or smarter or that they see the world more clearly or that they're the true conscience of the universe.

In college I met a performing arts major who had obviously never had a low moment in her life. She once said, "I'm used to being ecstatic every minute of the day." She made my teeth grind, but I figured the universe would even out the score and make her a mediocre actress. Of course she turned out to be perfectly fine. That was an education.

If you're depressed you'll often be drawn more to the darkest music/literature/art, which is often produced by people who have known dark moods. Is the darker stuff more creative or better? Are depressed creatives more creative than non-depressed creatives? Can you compare with the same criteria the creations of two people with radically different moods/worldviews/outlooks?

Would an otherwise non-creative person become a creative one if he developed depression and was encouraged to express it through some form of art therapy? (Here we must imagine an alternate reality in which the mental health care community is competent and enlightened.)

Finally, are creative people better than non-creative people? That's silly: of course we are. In fact those dimwit f---ktards are lucky we don't put them on a reservation.

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Soledad: I think depression does inspire creativity. More songs have been penned in depressive states than in jolly ones, that's for sure. That depressed feeling can put you in touch with your inner reserves of creativity.

I always think of Gwen Stefani of No Doubt writing the song "Don't Speak" in her room, after breaking up with her bandmate Tony, who never really loved her back. I just love that song; it's haunting and beautiful. Sara McLachlan's songs touch me the same way. It's obvious she writes from the very deep recesses of the heart.

I have written poetry when depressed and come up with some deep, jarring verse myself. The Beatles used to say that pot made them creative. I think being "contemplative" (as I prefer to refer to depression) gives you the same access to create resonating stories and lyrics that touch people with slices of real life -- real "I've been there" stories.

Do I think that people who are contemplative are far more creative than people whose minds simply aren't wired this way? Without a doubt. A recent entry on the blog The Universe expresses this:

Usually the most beautiful people, the most popular and loved, the "in" and chic, cool and hip, are the last ones to ever wonder about life, how it really works, manifesting change, and making a difference. . . You beat the system.

I love that, as it refers to the extra gift we have. We have a sixth sense for seeing life's real power that superficial people just don't have. It's what inspires writers, artists, and musicians to create some of the great artistic wonders of the world. We use our power to help others feel, relax, learn, love and endure. Artists like Sara McLachlan and Gwen Stefani are rich for a reason: because they have used their powers for good, and the world has "hugged" them back for their gifts to humanity. Karma is a beautiful thing.

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Illustration by M. Rhea.