Creativity and Mental Illness: Some thoughts from my upcoming book

Just finished the proofs for my upcoming edited book Creativity and Mental Illness and thought I would share a version of my final chapter, which represents my own thoughts on the matter….

I think it stands alone well enough to include most of it here as a blog….

As I was finishing up this project, a colleague asked me a question that stuck with me – why exactly was I doing this book? I ask myself that question every time I am in the final stages of an edited project, as I track down the last chapters and begin the marketing questionnaires. But, of course, this question was a bit deeper. Why creativity and mental illness? Why study it?

Some would argue the topic has been done to death. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies, most of them analyzing one small piece of the puzzle. Small effects or mixed results are overstated – or consistent patterns are minimized. The benchmark papers are flawed and, even if perfectly executed, would only shed light on one aspect of the …

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Blog for National Endowment for the Arts

I am doing a webinar for the National Endowment for the Arts today, chatting about creativity. Should be fun!

To get my gears turning, I wrote a blog for NEA here.

For those who don’t want to click, I am including it below, as well.


Can anyone be creative? How? What next? 

These three questions have driven much of my career.

To start with the obvious, creativity is a good thing. Creative people tend to be happier and more successful than less creative people. They are funnier and sexier and they can use their creativity to cope with stress and heal more quickly after trauma. Obvious negative stereotypes still persist. Some are true: creative people are more anxious. Others are simply false: your average creative person is not more likely to be severely mentally ill. There are hidden biases as well. Teachers and bosses alike say they value creativity, but they may still unconsciously dislike creative people.

This disconnect between what we say versus what we think may come from the many …

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No Oscar Love: Visual Effects Artists

When we ask people questions about creativity, we hear back all about drawing, music, creative writing, or film. We don’t hear a lot about science, business, teaching, engineering, or other non-artistic areas. This discrepancy is why so many people may think they’re not creative. If your creativity takes the form of computer programming or cooking or mathematics, then you might assume it’s not “really” being creative.

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Why couldn’t Jean Valjean have been a little more creative?

Valjean: “Wait a minute, I know this man! His name IS Doug. He worked at my factory three years ago. There’s no way he could be this dastardly Jean Valjean. I demand you release him right away to my custody. Because of the horrible accusations against him, I will give him a job in my factory. In fact, I’ll put him in charge for one week while I pick my… my niece, Cosette. Then I’ll be back and raise her to adulthood and be safe and secure and able to help an entire town’s worth of people. And if I ever hear of some guy named Valjean being arrested, I’ll go check it out and make sure it isn’t another one of my former factory workers who I can vouch for.”

Javert: “Okay. Sounds like a plan, Monseigneur Mayor.”

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