Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Artful Life – A Holistic Approach

Creative Intensity or Madness
By Lisa A. Riley, LMFT

“If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.” – Socrates

Many creative individuals have experienced sudden surges, flooded with creative intensity as if an arrow laced with their muse struck them. The cycle accelerates productivity with their art lasting for days, even weeks at a time. Engrossed in the moment saturated with ideas, some will work viciously, with little sleep or food. It’s as if creative energy is what fuels them during this interlude producing a temporary state of immortality. Commonly following such a ride is a retreat back into their cave, often in seclusion, as if to recover and hibernate. However, during this down time the creative process is not completely dormant. Instead the artist is regrouping, reorganizing and ideas are incubating for the next eruption.

Artists have been notoriously criticized for their shifting bouts of creativity, often misinterpreted as erratic moods swings. Throughout history many artists, unable to manage the power of their own muse were sucked under by the undertow, hence why the words “madness” and “artist” went hand in hand.

In the mental health spectrum such cycles are diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder. Although, many creative individuals do suffer from Manic-Depression and require medication to manage the disorder, how about those who don’t fit the criteria? Those who are able to keep one foot anchored during the ebb and flow of their own creative intensity with little disruption to their lives.

Not all artists lose sense of reality, but are very aware of their own artistic temperament. They are able to prepare and brace themselves for the storm ahead. They ride it out while utilizing its energy to fuel their art. Artists look forward to such cycles, which gave birth to some of their most innovative ideas and embrace the journey.

When the artist is able to know him or her self well enough to accept these cycles without judgment and learn the skills to create a healthy environment that will tame what is tempestuous, it becomes an ally in the creative process. The artist transforms what was once perceived as madness and into a powerful force that can help them reach levels in their creativity they never predicted.

“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.”— Edgar Allan Poe

Lisa is a psychotherapist, painter and writer. She has spent the last 25 years integrating various forms of self-expression as a way of life and an avenue towards healing. Because of her background in the arts she understands the unique challenges of the artistic personality and has spent the last 8 years working with artists, writers, actors and musicians in helping them gain self-awareness and a deeper understanding of themselves as artists.
Lisa has her own private practice in Southern California. For more information visit

1 comment:

Molly Hall said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for the insights. I love this blog and the reminders that artists are a breed unto themselves... Gaining awareness of our own artistic temperaments helps a lot in shaping our life decisions. Thank you!