Professional Writing

why is creativity depressing?

An article on CNN reports on a recent study of the links between creativity and mood disorders. As the article notes, "The research of Verhaeghen and colleagues shows when people are in a
reflective mode, they may become more creative, depressed, or both." The article also reports that

Creative people in the arts must develop a deep sensitivity to their
surroundings — colors, sounds, and emotions, says Mihaly

Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology and management at Claremont
Graduate University in Claremont, California. Such hypersensitivity can
lead people to worry about things that other people don’t worry about
as much, he said, and can lead to depression.

All of this sounds reasonable to me. Perhaps such connections exist. We might also consider the cultural contexts here. I would be interested in seeing if the same conditions apply in other cultures. The article doesn’t report on that. In my view, in the U.S. creativity and individuality are punished, particularly in the teen years. One’s family or school may not tolerate genuine creativity. After all, in our culture, individuality means "having it your way" at Burger King. Perhaps later on, one might find a community of creative types, but I would think that by then the damage would be done. Obviously it doesn’t happen to everyone, but that’s not the point.

On the other hand, I certainly agree that there is suffering in speculation. Perhaps if you are creative in certain ways you might have a tendency to speculate about possibilities others would not imagine or bother to imagine. The ability to imagine a different world and then to emotionally place yourself there can certainly be painful or pleasurable. But at a certain point, pleasure and pain are the same as affective overload.

However such practices are not necessary for creative expression. When we naturalize creativity, as we often do, we ignore the possibility of developing specific techniques and practices. That is, creative people can learn practices for making the most of their creativity without injuring themselves, just as dancers or athletes learn to hone their physical talents while minimizing the possibility of bodily harm.