• Grant Handgis

Creative Genius and The Thin Line to Insanity

An interesting article by Michael Gerson intitled; “We can gain from thin line dividing delusion, creativity”, which to my mind is reminiscent of late night discussions enjoyed during college days. The thesis of the article being that creative geniuses tend to straddle the line of creative genius and social mental derangement. My words describing Gerson’s analysis.

As he pointed out, Aristotle “suggested a connection between creativity and depression. Isaac Newton, who displayed a rich variety of mental disorders, once stuck a needle behind his eye socket just for the heck of it.” He even invoked William James’ thinking; “When a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce in the same indivual, we have the best possible condition for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries.”

Those are big guns being trotted out for commentary, which for the reader, should denote some authenticity to such thinking. History is replete with examples of social and scientific geniuses who also have personal and mental baggage carried through life in the vein of an nineteen century African Safari. Way too much to handle on a daily basis. Historically speaking their baggage has been thoroughly searched for specific clues to their personal proclivities; the trail of their behavior.

Gerson goes on to posit that “This presents the prospect that a milder version of mental illness is conducive to creativity. And the mechanism may be a form of dis-inhibition – a failure of the brain to screen out extraneous information that is then combined in original ways.” There was more to his sourced article, however the point can be made from his thesis that there is something to the connection to creative novelty and some form of disassociation with some social conventions, socially expected behavior.

As a writer, with a degree in psychology, this thesis is not a new one for me. I have lived through some of the quirks of behavior that were socially awkward at best, and psychologically outside expected social acceptance. That had to do with working my way through several markers of Tourette Syndrome, the OCD part of physical repetitions and actions. Mortally embarrassing in a social setting. I won’t go as far as to say I can hear character voices in advance of writing them out, or experience sensorial input from imaginary scenes I explore mentally for story potential, simply because that tends to invite unwanted attention to my mental health in general. I’m feeling fine, thank you.

For those writers who strive to find that creative spark to lure the little muse out of Mu long enough to squeeze some word wizardry out of their little heads, total conformity to social convention tends to limit the boundaries of possibility, constrict the fuller realm of creativity, in my thinking. Writers and artists regularly go beyond what is right in front of us, mirroring the expected outcome, or the very way we see our world, by deliberately fabricating an altered perspective which then allows the reader or art lover to see something they would not have seen, or heard spoken, otherwise.

So go on and flaunt your unique character with relish. Celebrate your inventive nature by your very creations. It is in your nature to do so, as artists. Without which, we as a society would be left to the drab repetitions of daily life without knowing the joys brought about by great works of art and great stories in countless books. It is the logical thing to do.


g. Michael Handgis Photography


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