Monday, August 20, 2007

Genius, Creativity and Madness

My name is Debbie, and I'm an NPR junkie.

Hi, Debbie!

I caught part of The Infinite Mind yesterday while out running errands. They were exploring what makes a person a genius. Not someone with a high IQ but who makes breakthroughs in his or her field. As a matter of fact, they said that most of the people we consider geniuses don't have IQs in the upper stratosphere nor did they necessarily do well in school. My explanation for why that may be is that often in formal education settings, we are taught the conventional wisdom. And genius usually ignores conventional wisdom. Thus the innovation.

The part that really caught my attention was the study of what relationship, if any, actually exists between madness and creativity. What the researchers have found is that one particular condition, manic-depressive illness, does occur with higher frequency among people in the arts. Within the arts, writers have the highest incidence, especially poets. The thought patterns in the early phases of the illness are speeded up and extended in unusual ways, thought to cause heightened creativity.

So do we all have to be mad in order to be creative? Of course not. But I think we do have to try looking at things from a different angle. Not only from the way most other people see things, but from the way we tend to view them. Climb on that desk or lie on the floor or use a mirror to look at something you see every day.

In the meantime, I'm a little nervous about taking Ali's poetry challenge.


Ali said...

Don't feel nervous, Deb. Embrace the scary. Just wait until you see my challenge for September, you'll really love that.

As far as madness = genius goes, it does make a kind of sense. After all, isn't genius pretty comparable to originality? Ergo, not conventionality.

Debbie said...

It's more the poetry thing that scares me than the madness thing. The interviewer did ask if being creative could cause madness, and the interviewee said it was more the other way around. So if I'm already mad.... Well, you guys know.

But I am learning to embrace the scary. It does propel one's work forward.

And I love that you used 'ergo'. :-)

Ali said...

Ergo is such a good word. Ergo, I'm always pleased when I can sneak it in somewhere.