CNN is doing a fascinating weekly series about the characteristics of creativity. The first piece, by Todd Leopold, focuses on Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. If you are, or live with, someone who is extremely creative but often troubled, you will find this a great read. Here’s a clip:
While reaching for heaven, Brian Wilson was entering hell. It was a place he’d been before.
Though the “tortured artist” has long been a cliché, there does appear to be a relationship between mental illness and creativity. Studies indicate that the brains of highly creative people react differently to information than those of “normal” people.
“Highly creative people are probably highly creative because of certain cognitive mechanisms that also would predispose them to symptoms of mental disorder if they didn’t have additional protective factors,” says Harvard psychology instructor Shelley Carson, author of “Your Creative Mind.”
Their childhoods often “force them to spend time in their inner world. … They can develop their own ideas about things rather than being dependent upon the ideas that are sort of forced down their throat.”
The second person profiled in this series is Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan, who talks extensively about creativity and failure. Her story (also by Leopold) can be found here.