Recently I read that madness is linked to creativity and it got me to thinking. In my teens and early 20’s I was able to crank out music, essays, and a whole host of other avenues for creativity. I was cloaked in my madness. In my early 20’s I decided to fully embrace the self-knowledge process that had been building up inside me. I began going to therapy. I sought out the very best therapists. I journaled for thousands and thousands of hours. I even trained as a therapist! I became extremely proficient at resolving madness. And lo and behold, some of my creativity has waned.
People who have lots of madness, or “trauma”, have a yearning burning pain inside them that tells them to justify themselves to the world. These people seek out rescue or revenge. They don’t accord to reality. A whole host of emotions can simply GRIP them at any moment, and, the more mad they are, for more and more reasons. I am simply not this way anymore.
This doesn’t mean that I am uninspired. It simply means that I don’t have to codify, say, the pain of my mother’s abandonment into some song. I’m not confused about love and can’t sing, “I love you even when you hurt me, baby.” I can’t create a cacophonous rap beat and rhyme over it about how a woman has a big ass and I should drink less tonight. I can’t write a murder mystery novel about some fat suburbanites who take a break from Netflix to play out their fantasies.
Okay, maybe that last one would be interesting to develop.
Doing so much therapy has made me see the immaturity in so much of the creativity that passes for “popular” these days. I see how these artists could self-reflect a bit and the entirety of their persona would have to shift. They’d mourn how awful they’ve been to themselves and how unfulfilled their obsessions have left them. But they’d also have a harder time simply gacking out creativity in spades. There’d be less narcissism to have to justify to others.
The more I understand myself, the more I understand the great masters who maintained a deeply introspective life while still pursuing creativity. They are far fewer and further between than I’d imagined but their presence in the Western canon is undeniably felt. They maintained their creativity through discipline.
This means they kept a daily practice. Some recorded their dreams. Most went on long walks. Some retreated deep into the mountains to get space from the bigotry of the unreflective masses. Some stayed in the cities and kept to strict routines.
Whatever it was they did, they kept to a discipline.
I’ll write a few of the practical things I do to maintain my creativity:
-remember my dreams and often write them down
-follow my convictions and hunches as often and intensely as possible
-disregard people who I view as inauthentic or manipulative
-socialize with people who inspire me
-keep a daily journal
-write creative ideas as they come up
-exercise every day
-set aside time every morning to be creative
-sing and dance 3–4 times a week
-live in the mountains
-limit my use of the Internet
-keep my use of social media purposeful in the service of my mission
-consume moving, meaningful art almost exclusively
-take 3 or 4 trips a year to break up my routine
-GET GOOD SLEEP
I have also almost completely stopped consuming “self-help” and psychology books. Knowing how to resolve trauma honestly and effectively is about the most difficult, esoteric skill to divine out of all that stuff.
Anything beyond this one difficult skill is simply variations on, “In order to be successful you have to develop a well-ordered discipline and network with others in your field.” Rinse and repeat. At this point, I feel I only need a reminder now and then. Otherwise, there’s simply the work in front of me.
Do the work, reap the rewards. It’s that simple. My destiny is in my own hands.