When composing this post, I found myself fumbling with different ideas, their angles poking into soft flesh as I turned them over and over. I would get a few sentences into my rant and then stop and erase its entirety. This, I believe, is because I must at this point share something rather stigmatized in our age. I have schizo-affective disorder, and am told that I have all the symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I have been trying for an hour to spin this in different ways that might make me look interesting or cool because I have a chronic, severe mental illness. I kept romanticizing madness even as I mean not to. Really, though, all varieties of the populations have portions that are crazy, to use the common if demeaning word, for it for lack of a better one. There is zero truth to the notion that all crazy people are geniuses in one way or another. A great many of them do, in fact, seriously pursue some sort of creative outlet, but they are largely bad at it. In my experience this has been necessarily the case. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the portion of the crazy population that are talented is as small or smaller than the portion of the general population. Yet within me and within a small percentage of the population, there are intrusions from no senses that often make no sense. These distractions are want to make the mad abandon projects as unfinished, or to obsess over their every detail and waste time that way, and in other ways that hinder productivity. Depending on the nature of a mental illness, it will find different ways to stunt all productivity at every pass. So whence this idea of mad genius? There have been studies that suggest a higher than average percentage of professional creative types who suffer from mental illness. It is my belief that this means far less than it might seem concerning a connection between madness and genius. Discipline has far, far more to do with successful artistry than does talent. That leaves us with the fact that most mentally ill people necessarily lack the requisite organization to ever achieve much of anything, let along persist enough in the face of encumbrance and doubt to make a career of creativity. The mental hospitals are full of people marking up coloring books, not painting masterpieces. There seems to be no special talents for the mad but there is a special madness for the talented. Potential as a concept is an ephemeral malignancy. Believing in its value is like putting faith in a religion – most won’t believe it without proof, and there is no way to prove either one except for a miracle that is rare, that is lovely, that is meaningful, that is art. All of these ideas come from extensive research into the connection between madness and artistry that I am too lazy to cite right now, other than to recommend reading’s Kay Redfield Jamison’s text, “Touched With Fire” if nothing else. In a way, though, her theories are dangerous, perhaps even deadly. By misinterpretation they seem to drive sick people further into sickness because of a fallacious understanding of her work. I importune you, my reader, to clean this up for yourself and those around you, be they sick or be you sick or both. No more of the mad are artists, but more of the artists are mad. So if you are reading this and you suffer from a mental illness as I do, for the love of all that is good get it through your head that your mental health will only make your work better if it is well and after you are well. There is no incentive in insanity. There is only insanity itself.
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