An article I read this week suggested that writers are somehow more prone to mental illness than 'normal people'.
rates, bipolar disorders, substance abuse and incidents of clinical
depression are all apparently higher in creative types - and this is
based on a Swedish scientific survey of over a million people!
across the article because Chris Ryall, a great thriller writer and one
my beloved subscribers, posted it on Facebook.
To be honest the article kinda annoyed me - because I dispute the premise.
If you want, you can read it here.
Now, I've always thought that 'normal' people should be creative - and that people who didn't want to write, paint, make things or generally be inventive about their daily lives were the 'abnormal' ones!
To me, the suggestion that there's something abnormal about creativity is rather insulting - and a bit strange.
I mean, why, in a wise and civilized society, would being creative be regarded as some kind of mental aberration?
well aware that writers are often sensitive to life and 'feel' things
that inspire them to write them down. Many writers are very observant
when it comes to detail and trying to make sense of life and
But is being extra receptive to normal things really a sign of madness?
article suggests it should be. In fact they go so far as you imply
that, scientifically speaking, when you come across people who suffer
from mental illness, perhaps your first suggestion to them is, "Oh, have you thought about becoming an artist?"
See what I mean about being insulting?
The implication that all artists must be mad?
mad about about wanting to change the world for the better? What is
insane about wanting to write books and make movies that inspire the
me of that old statistic about crime. They say 60% of murders are
alcohol related - so therefore drinking alcohol is a bad thing. That's
how you're supposed to read the statistic.
occurs to me is that, hidden in plain sight, we learn that 40% of
murders are committed by completely sober, so called rational people!
That's a far more scary way of looking at this statistic!
And so it is with the Swedish research.
What's their definition of normal? It appears to be: people who aren't creative!
some pretty crazy people in my time. I've met people who think reading
is overrated. I've met people who think that working their whole lives
just to pay off a mortgage is sensible. I've met people who think that
everything in the Bible is fact - and written by God. I've met people
who think that politicians deserve to be respected and that corporate
entities have ethics and behave with any kind of inherent social
If you ask me, these are the crazy people!
What's insane about thinking our society needs to be improved and that creativity is an integral part of being human?
Maybe I'm ranting now.
Maybe I'm one of the crazy ones!
It's often said that you can tell that a person has gone completely mad because they can't see their own insanity.
Well, I guess that's me then.
Because if I live in a world where creativity is to be equated with mental imbalance, then put me in a straitjacket now!
I'm clearly gaga.
there does seem to be this worrying idea that if you're somehow
sensitive and feel in any way uncomfortable within the strict confines
of day to day existence that you're a bit of loony.
if you're capable of intense focus on something - whether that's
writing a novel or perhaps an obsession with some other kind of self
expression, then perhaps there's something wrong with you.
interesting idea because if the 'non-creatives' have their way - and
try to marginalize and minimize the importance of creativity and
inspiration - what kind of world would we live in then?
A place where there's no innovation?
Where new ideas are shunned?
A world where nobody questions the status quo?
Where injustice and abuse of power is tolerated?
A society where anyone who stands up and says 'this is wrong' is seen as a freak?
be honest, I can see this happening - in the media especially - but
there again, you can't listen to me because I'm one of those freaks...
would be a pretty boring - and pretty scary - place if it were run by
engineers and scientists and the chattering classes.
Rationality is overrated IMHO.
to live in a world where there's a sense of wonder - and that
there are still things for creative people to worry about - and try to
Because anyone can complain and feel powerless.
But artists need to be unrealistic - it's part of the job description.
If everyone rational thought that change and growth was impossible, there'd surely be no hope for any of us.
And so, my writer friends, please: