Creativity and Madness

"Creativity is a puzzle, a paradox, some say a mystery.  Inventors, scientists, and artists rarely know how their ideas arise.  They mention intuition, but cannot say how it works.  Most psychologists cannot tell us much about it either.  What's more, many people assume that there will never be a scientific theory of creativity–for how could science possibly explain fundamental novelties?  As if all this were not daunting enough, the apparent unpredictability of creativity seems to outlaw any systemic explanation whether scientific or historical.”  –  Margaret Boden, Dimensions of Creativity

Creativity is a mystery, one of the most perplexing components of existence in our universe. What inspires the human mind to create?  And where does inspiration originate?

Throughout history, the creative mind has enthused and changed the course of human thought and intellect.  But what is creativity?

Plato and the ancient Greeks thought that artists merely discovered new ways of expressing things.  However, the Oxford English Dictionary defines to create as, “to bring into being, cause to exist, and to produce where nothing was before.” Artists create.  Artists often shape, transform, and immortalize societal and historical movements by breaking the bounds of acceptability and reconfiguring the social order.

In this, psychoanalysts like Freud and Jung have regarded creativity as a mental and socio-cultural process.  They have rationalized creativity as dependent upon the external makeup of our ever-shifting universe and our relation to it.  As the world changes, artists find new ways and mechanisms to create artwork and to thus rebel against the boundaries of society.  Imagination triumphs over reason and mirrors the unconscious process of dreaming.  Therefore, in some sense, all human beings are dreamers.  And all human beings are artists.

Great painters (Picasso), literary geniuses (Poe), and musical prophets (Jimi Hendrix) each have altered the course of history in their milieus through utterly unique self-expression.  Artists are searching for something.  They’re searching to express themselves, or rather to express something hidden in the universe, through abstract exertions of colors, symbols and connections.  And with this desire to show the world in another light, one without distraction and limitation, oftentimes requires a submersion into a realm of dissociation.  But in a way, artists can better understand reality because of this disengagement.

The creative mind wants to satisfy desires that are frequently prohibited by society.  Artists want to live out their wildest fantasies, and turn the absurd into physical and aesthetic reality.  And by setting their own souls free, they strive to liberate all those around them through this submersion into passionate rumination.  Artists have the gift to synthesize and articulate the unexplainable.  They conceptualize and materialize beauty and emotion in way the rest of society, at least big business and the government, sometimes try to repress.

So, maybe creativity is madness. But, on the other hand, maybe conformity is madness?


  1. says

    I heard someone say recently that it’s not that some people are creative and some aren’t. It’s just that some people apply it and some don’t.

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