Thursday, July 26, 2012

Connection Between Creative Genius and Being "Different"?

One of my students once asked me, "Why is it that every author is crazy?"  I thought about avoiding the question, actually, because who wants to go there, really?


First of all, there's that word "crazy" ...  (which, incidentally, is why it took me five minutes to come up with a title for this post ;-))

It's almost impossible to define "crazy", or I suppose we all have our own individual parameters as to what the word means.  Kooky?  Dangerous to yourself and others?  Impossible to understand?  Unique?  Those who beat to the march of their own drummers?  Manipulative?

And yet that long-ago student stumbled upon a kernel of truth that I had always been aware of on some level but had never really contemplated particularly deeply.

There is, in my opinion, an unquestionably correlation between creative genius and ... well, I'll call it eccentricity.  Michelangelo ... Marlon Brando ... Kurt Cobain ... J.K. Rowling ... Charles Dickens ... and so on.

And the so-called "27 Club" seems more evidence to support this theory than mere coincidence.    

I face it head on now as a teacher, usually through the unfortunate Edgar Allan Poe.  Before we read any of his stuff, I give my students notes about his life (I don't give proscribed notes very often, but I do when introducing Poe's biography).


Consider Poe's tragic existence ...

Dad left the family, Mom died when he was just a little kid of tuberculosis, his foster father didn't have much use for him, his foster mother died when he was still fairly young (also of TB), he had a gambling problem, his military career was a disaster, he married his thirteen-year-old cousin when he was in his late twenties (and said cousin died of TB ... gee, wonder if Poe was a carrier or something?), couldn't hold a job because he was by most accounts a hot-tempered and opinion twit, had a severe addiction problem, and died under very bizarre circumstances.  (That's the nutshell version, obviously)


When reading Poe's works (and I personally think he was a writer of prodigious talent), you can see the tragedies that shaped his life all over the place, an autobiographical legacy from a writer that will be remembered for being ... well, crazy.


There are very few writers, artists, actors, musicians, or any sort of master of a creative outlet who appear to have had "normal" lives.  (I know, "normal" is about as difficult to define as "crazy", right?)


Speaking for myself, I know for a fact that I would not be the writer I am were it not for those traumatic events that have shaped my own life.

And while I'm pretty sure I'm mentally sound, I have definitely been impacted by the learning disabilities that have complicated my existence, not to mention insomnia.

If I ever achieve the degree of fame as a writer where a biography would be written about me, it would probably make for an interesting read (not because I'm an interesting person but because I have somehow had so many interesting experiences).

Anyway, that's my take ... interesting life experiences (and, sadly, the more traumatic the ... better?) and/or mental illness foster creative genius, without a doubt.

What do you think?