Demystifying Creativity: Part 2 (The Emotional Freaks)


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This is part two of my two part write-up on creativity. If you haven’t read Part One , I suggest you read it first before proceeding further. In part one I talked about what creativity really is and here I will talk about a particular human trait (found in almost 20% of us) that enhances our creative ability tremendously.

A self Portrait of Vincent Van Gough


A few days back, while reading a blog, I stumbled on to a quote by Pearl S. Buck. Pearl was an American writer and missionary and wrote extensively on Chinese life and culture. She was also the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She says,

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

While many of you will appreciate this quote, think about it for a while and move on, some of you, like me, might be so overwhelmed by it that you may want to do something with it. The moment I read it, I knew I had to write something revolving around this quote. What, I was not sure. But I had to write something. And that’s how this two part article on creativity happened.

Let us first understand who is a highly sensitive person. Watch this video where Dr. Elaine N. Aron, a clinical psychologist, answers this question.

Let me now tell you my story. Long before my brother decided on my creative ability on my behalf, I had realized there was something unusual about me. As a kid, I would break into tears at the slightest of pretext, would get overwhelmed by both the goodness and the wickedness around me, would get hurt easily by the unfair comments from others, spent most of my time, thinking, in my own idealistic world instead of interacting with the real world resulting in absent mindedness and I, since childhood, have an obsession for fairness and justice. Even the slightest of injustice is good enough to make me go on an emotional frenzy.

Of course I never talked about any of this with anyone (either family or friends), fearing I would become an object of ridicule and would be branded a freak.

It was only recently (about couple of years ago) that I realized that I am indeed an “emotional freak,” an overtly sensitive person. And the good news is, my “freakness” has helped me explore and enhance my creativity tremendously and for the first time in my life, I am confident that I can make a career out of it. I am, what you can say in tech lingo, “wired” by the creator to be creative. And this realization came to me only after I went through the worst period of my life. It was only after I was drained out emotionally, that I realized that there was a reason why I am made the way I am. And this realization was the greatest gift I ever got in my life.

In 2008, I made some of the worst mistakes of my life (in retrospect, I am glad I made them!), one thing led to another and before I could realize it, I was confronted with my own ghosts and was almost on the verge of sinking.

But then, one fine day, I discovered I could write! I could be creative! And I was rescued.
After almost two years I have now learnt to control my sensitivity and use it to churn out hundreds of words almost every other day. I cook out words of happiness and sorrow, sprinkle them with frustration, garnish it with hope and I get the best recipe ever! This blog is one of the proofs of this recipe.

But I have suffered for years to reach this stage. It wasn’t easy dealing with my frequent mood swings and getting depressed every other day. In high school I used to shed tears while reading all the treachery of all the politicians in newspapers, troubled over the fact that they are ruining the country I love so much, I cried buckets during the concluding pages of Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay’s Aporajito, and got depressed when I was about to finish Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy because after more than twelve hundred pages, I knew I would miss the characters forever! I find it impossible to make people understand that the reason why I eat fast is not because I am a hogger, but because I consider it an insult to the food if I don’t devote myself wholeheartedly to eating it as fast as I can and not doing anything else while I am eating. Also the reason why I do certain things in a relaxed manner is not because I am lazy but because hurrying up, just for the sake of it, violates my sense of beauty and aesthetics of life. You may call me an eccentric, but all these quirks define who I really am.

So what exactly am I talking about here? Watch this excellent video below to understand more.

Yes, what I am talking about here is a positive correlation between creativity and sensitivity. The more a person is able to flow with his emotions, the more creative he will be. Makes sense, because the ability to amplify the highs and lows of emotions gives our mind an excitability that helps us to have a different perspective on things. This is particularly more true in arts than in business. In business you can “teach” yourself to think creatively and solve problems. This wouldn’t require too much of sensitivity. This is what Dr. De Bono calls, “serious creativity.”

But when it comes to arts, high sensitivity is an indispensable asset. You can’t write poetry or create music or painting if you can’t feel happiness sorrow, heartbreak or euphoria more than “normal” people. William Wordsworth one fine morning, saw thousands of daffodils dancing in the breeze and he got so euphoric that he wrote one of his most famous poems. Rabindranath Tagore, as a child was so lonely, than he made nature his best friend and wrote his heart out. Then again as a married family man, the untimely death of his wife and children caused him so much grief that he poured it all in his poetry, stories and songs. This is probably the reason why most of his short stories have a sad ending. And when he decided to turn his attention to God, he wrote the world famous Gitanjali.

And what happens when this sensitivity becomes extreme? It gives rise to a condition called “Bipolar Disorder.” As apparant from the name, people who have bipolar disorder suffer from extreme mood swings and manic depressions. So, do such people also possess extremely high creativity? Apparently, yes. Vincent Van Gough (one of the greatest painters ever), Ludvig Van Beethoven (perhaps the greatest western musician ever), Sir Issac Newton (the greatest scientist ever), Edgar Allan Poe (a master of mystery, horror and suspense stories), John Nash (a mathematical genius and a Nobel laureate), all suffered from either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and almost all of them had suicidal tendencies. People called them mad, but were they really?

Edgar Allan Poe has himself written, “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence — whether much that is glorious — whether all that is profound — does not spring from disease of thought — from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect”

John Nash believes that, “rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation with the cosmos.”

According to an article in How Stuff Works,

Some scientists claim that a far greater percentage of creative types (poets, painters, musicians and the like) have been afflicted with bipolar disorder than the general population.

Scientists at the University of Toronto have discovered that creative people possess little to no “latent inhibition,” the unconscious ability to reject unimportant or irrelevant stimuli. As University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson puts it, “This means that creative individuals remain in¬ contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment. The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities

But what happens when such people can’t fully control their sensitivity for productive purposes? They generally get addicted to alcohol or drugs or vent out their frustration through violence and wayward lifestyle and in the worst case, end it all by committing suicide. Kurt Gobain, was a drug addict and after a couple of failed attempts finally committed suicide. At the peak of his career, he was much distressed by the misuse of his music by his fans. Marilyn Monroe, the original American diva, was another drug addict and committed suicide at the age of thirty six. And we all the know about the troubled life of the king of pop, Michael Jackson, and his sad demise. David Ogilvy, the father of advertising admits in his book Ogilvy on Advertising that most of the copy writers he knew were alcoholics. Drug abuse or alcoholism is a very sad consequence of the inability to control one’s sensitivity and creativity.

Telentdevelop.com is an excellent online resource for understanding creativity and sensitivity and the relation between the two. If you are a highly sensitive person and are finding it difficult to cope up with your mood swings, then checking out the site might not be a bad idea.

I’ll end with a beautiful proposition. All those of you who think that you are “wired” differently and often find people calling you mad, eccentric, or weird, be thankful for your “madness” and use it to create something. It can be anything, words, pictures, videos, designs, sculpture, buildings, objects. But no matter what, create something, make a difference to your and others lives. And if you do that, trust me, instead of cribbing about your “abnormality”, you will actually love yourself just for that.

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