Thursday, August 16, 2012

Madness and Art

Van Gogh cut off his ear.

Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

Numerous entertainers have overdosed on drugs--accidentally or otherwise.

Shakespeare wrote of madness in Macbeth, and hinted about it elsewhere.

Edgar Allen Poe was questionably depressed or bipolar.

Some scientists believe the connection is clear--where there is creativity, there is the potential for madness. One European study linked the same genetic mutation that insights creativity to schizophrenia.

It certainly seems that the creators of beautiful musical masterpieces like Mozart or Beethoven or breathtaking art like Picasso or Monet have a special vision or a different type of connection to another world. Some say it is because God is always speaking, and they are taking the time or have the ability to listen.

And of course there is the drug connection too. Do true creatives try and self-medicate with alcohol, heroin, or cocaine? Does their propensity toward drugs stem from wanting to expand their already wider ability to see the world in a different way--or a need to quiet the "voices" telling them what to write, paint, or sing.

Or do artists simply remove more of the social restraints that we and society have put in place from a very young age. We are a civilized nation, each of us fitting neatly into our roles and polite mores that have been dictated since our births.

Freud used "talking therapy" to get to what he considered to be the root of people's problems.  He asked that the filters be removed, even if it was momentarily, and to free associate, and say the first things that pop into our heads--even if they seemed crazy or frightening. Wild things were said! New discoveries were made about deep and mysterious problems. We would never say these things in normal everyday conversation--people would think we are....

What if we all tried to keep the filters down a bit. I'm not talking about the ones that keep us out of jail, but the ones that keep us from being embarrassed, or saying what we really feel, or doing what we honest-to-God want to do without the worry of hurting someone, disappointing someone, or being afraid and doing it anyway.  Maybe that is the only difference from the creative geniuses and everyone else.

Is creativity merely the ability to keep these filters down? Maybe those who can control them are lucky. They can write or draw or make music--or in some cases, all these things, and put the filters back in place when they need to function in a social or familial situation.  Are the poor souls who are locked away and forever confused between reality and another world simply lacking the filters at all?

At this point the jury is still out. Not all schizophrenics are artistic or creative, in fact some are simply and sadly paralyzed by what they experience. Not all madness is schizophrenia, and certainly not all artists are mad. 

Some days I wonder if we are not all mad, but not properly categorized yet.


  1. From, Susan Ricci:

    Penelope Crowe is a talented author with very special gifts and I appreciate every one of them. She writes in several different genres, as she is inspired to do, As the Crowe Flies.

    I can't envison my literary journey without her input, or her stories--I look forward to each snippet of prose she shares with us, and we are darn lucky she has the ability to entertain us all.

    I urge you to share her stories, her blogs, and embrace her, because she is an author and illustrator that doesn't come along every day.

    I'm privileged to know her personally.

    1. Thanks Susan!
      I am really looking forward to the day your book is out, Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems. I'm sure it will be worth the wait.
      I really appreciate your kind words.

  2. From Andrea Pettee Morris
    I thoroughly enjoyed both "Absorbed" and "100 Unfortunate Days" both are remarkable and different. I enjoy different! I do not wish to read works of Literature that seem like many other things I have read before, I call it 'Cookie Cutter Literature'. I am always on the lookout for the different and exciting, and one definately finds that in the works of Penelope Crowe! Thank you for sharing your amazing talent! We will be anxiously awaiting your future prose :)

    1. Hi Andrea!
      I'm so glad you liked the book and story--I get nervous each and every time I hear someone is reading my stuff.
      I have an anthology coming out--hopefully in September called The Daughter of Nostradamus and Other Tales, written with my friend author Lucy Bloodwell. If you liked the other 2 these stories should be right up your dark and creepy loving alley :)
      Thanks for visiting and liking my work--XO!

  3. We are definitely ALL mad. Who is this little puppy Valentine??? OMG.

    What were we talking about?

    Oh, yeah. I think creativity is just the ability to say "What can I do today?" and refusing to settle for anything less than fun or fulfilling. It is letting your soul speak. <3

    1. Oooo--I think you are right Red.
      Too many people ignore it or try their best to keep that voice quiet.
      Too bad really.
      I don't think that is the case with you though!
      And Valentine is my puppy I got for myself this past February.
      I LOVE her :)
      Night Red! Always love when you stop by. XO

  4. Great article! I guess we'll never really know WHY the most creative people tend toward depression, mental illness, and even madness, but there has always been a connection and popular terms like "tortured artist".

    Really enjoyed this...
    xo, Brooklyn

    1. Brooklyn we probably won't--but they will keep looking for the gene, or chromosome, or super-secret strand of DNA they can isolate and claim as the newest finding.
      Then 5 minutes later someone will disprove it and find the connection is more likely too much sugar or lack of sunlight.
      But the topic will continue to fascinate me--and I will keep pondering.
      And I think as writers we are automatically tortured--even if we are not the least bit crazy. :)
      Glad you commented--thank you! XO

  5. Ehhh, I like to think of us as special. Because not everyone is attuned to their creativity, only a select few are, and even fewer know how to channel it properly... like you and me :)

  6. Thanks Melissa!
    You know I will be in any club (this one being The Special Club) that you are in :)
    You are probably right though--and I will go a step further--I bet many people had their creativity "taught" away.
    And I think the kids that had you as a teacher were lucky :)

  7. Possibly, creative folks are more sensitive and fall prey to mental and emotional disturbances more readily because they've no shields to protect them. Or maybe they're more self-aware and more readily recognize when they're ailing. Or maybe we're all so incredibly self-absorbed we drive our own neuroses. ;-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  8. Could be a bit of everything you wrote Mina.
    I have a friend who can't take the input sometimes--ultra-intuitive.
    So I guess that is a blessing and a curse.
    I wonder if there is a way to develop better shields--or just learn how to use the ones we have.
    Now you have me thinking again and it is too late :) (Just kidding )
    Thanks for coming Mina-love the input XO

  9. I consider myself to be creative, and I would also consider myself to be a person who has to actively avoid stumbling off the edges of my sanity. My twenties were difficult, mostly because I didn't know how to handle the fact that I perceive the world so differently than most of my peers. I studied logic, philosophy, physics, mathematics, computer science - anything that I thought could help me tame the illogic of my own disquieting difference. It took almost a decade, but I finally understood. I *am* different, but I can choose to treat it as madness or as creativity. I can see it as a deviant mistake in myself, or a wondrous gift. Acceptance of myself has changed everything. It also helps to get plenty of sleep, eat smaller meals more frequently, and stick to a schedule to keep myself from getting frazzled and falling off those slippery edges.... In the end, I think there isn't so much a difference or a "line" between madness and creativity. I think they are just different segments along the spectrum of perception.


  10. (Conjoined-brain moment)
    We are lucky to have aceepted ourselves :)
    We read and hear others preach so much about accepting others--yet we are subtly taught to fit into boxes and not veer off the paved path.
    I am trying to pass a healthier message to my son--and it is not easy.
    He is creative too.
    Even the tests we are given in school judge a very specific type of intelligence. Too bad really.
    There are so many beautiful minds out there just waiting...
    XO Love it when you come by Aniko.


I would LOVE to know what you think. All spam or comments with links will be deleted.