Creativity and the Dark Lords of the Mind

After two months of continuity in creating and writing, I found myself in a rather dark space. For few weeks, I drowned myself in an unproductive state of wallowing and despair. I find myself in these moments where I teleport myself from a state of creation to disillusion. I don’t have a clue and find myself struggling for inspiration. Creativity for me is more of an outlet of writing poems and articles for my social project. But there is an innate desire to write poems and articles that speak to the soul. However, there is no tardiness since there are no deadlines or pressures involved. Surprisingly enough, these phases exhaust my mind and soul. And as I go through this period of liminal delusion, I wonder of the unsuspecting co-relation between dark phases and creativity.

As someone who looks out to the universe in such times of perplexity. I can’t help but imagine of the emptiness and dark energy that exists in our universe. And I quote this article from NASA “Then one version of Einstein’s gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, makes a second prediction: “empty space” can possess its own energy. Because this energy is a property of space itself, it would not be diluted as space expands. As more space comes into existence, more of this energy-of-space would appear.”

Dark energy and matter in fact make up 70% of our universe and scientifically, it is a part of us. Looking at it metamporphically and drawing parallels to our states of being, the idea may sound outlandish but one cannot ignore their existence in the corners of our mind.

The world at large abhors the term dark. But if one were to draw its parallel to the negative state of mind, it begs the question of why do we humans float into these empty spaces filled with negative thoughts ? Are these apparitions more visible in creative people ?

“Negative thoughts are cognitions about the self, others, or the world in general that are characterised by negative perceptions, expectations, and attributions and are associated with unpleasant emotions and adverse behavioral, physiological, and health outcomes.”

From my personal experience of writing for most of my life, these empty and hollow spaces devoid of feelings yet ripe with pain appear from time to time. If one were to refer back to behavioural sciences and psychology, we may find a plausible answer that lies in hormones, current situations and experiences in life. I’m in no way suggesting that creativity is only bred by negativity but one can’t help ignore the somewhat esoteric association.

Some of the greatest works have stemmed out of despair, depression and real dark phases of their lives. The great Michelangelo who paintings still adorn the Sistine Chapel suffered from anxiety and depression. He had a low opinion of some of his own work. Van Gogh is another artist whose greatest works were created when he was himself in a dark space. In literature, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf , Mark Twain and many others suffered and wandered into the lanes loaded with pain from time to time yet created some of the greatest writings of our time. John Nash, the brilliant real life mathematician on whom the movie The Beautiful Mind was produced suffered from schizophrenia.

Zooming back to the people that you come across in real life. That artist on the street who is painting, the road side singer, the old man who writes poetry on the go, do they also go through these phases of desolate despair and creative roadblocks. My conversations with people who create do reflect that it is something that is a commonality among this group. In fact, it is common among all of us, creative or non-creative.

The theory of mad genius which is still a bone of contention among researchers. There are numerous studies that have been conducted between the psychological distress and creative geniuses. The mechanics of the mind coupled with feelings have this strange mysterious connection.

I’m no Wordsworth but some of my best creative pursuits have come to life in times of extreme emotional turmoil, meandering and constraints. In ancient Greece, the creative mind was invoked by daydreaming. The life experiences aided by cognition helps the mind to conjure new things.

Quoting Steve Jobs from the Wired,

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

So, why doesn’t the brain help overcome during these obscure phases ? From a layman’s perspective, when such feelings and situations arise, the normal people will adopt a rational method to steer clear of these dilemmas through a combination of logic and perhaps using a path of less resistance. However, it is mostly grey in people driven by creativity. These blocks and constraints fuel innovation and creativity.

In fact, it is said that the brain lights up during boredom as it wanders into a sub-conscious space where creative mind is at its best. During these moments, we solve some of our own constraints.

These moments, feelings and blocks serve as gravels for building and creating.

In my lowest moments where I feel like disappearing into oblivion, I go back and read one of my favorite books, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Rilke. One of my favorite quotes from the book -

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

And these moments of doubt, suffering and pain are a part of the ebbs and flows of the creative life. It is from the chaos that some of the beautiful works and solutions are created. While the world cheers for positivity and offers ways to heal yourself from negativity, I believe that these phases if harvested thoughtfully without self destruction can open the obstructed doors of the creative mind. These dark, uncertain and empty spaces within will perhaps spring alive with creative energy as it expands with grey matter in the space of our actuality.

I leave you with a little poem that I wrote :

“The winter of the mind,

Tiptoes in from time to time,

Making me crumble with slithering pain ,

An angst that succours,

To bring ideas to life again. — IK”

PS: I am no expert but these were some of thoughts as I read and reflected on this topic.

References : Wikipedia, Letters to a Young Poet, Wired

Photo Credit : Jacqueline Day

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