On Creativity And Depression
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On Creativity And Depression

They do not go hand in hand.

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On Creativity And Depression
Daian Gan

Almost everyone is familiar with the "tortured artist" stereotype: the idea that a creative person produces great work when they suffer emotionally, or, that every great artist is always melancholic and depressed in some way. I've heard people discuss Vincent Van Gogh's depression in a positive light, saying that if he hadn't been so miserable, we wouldn't have such wonders as Starry Night, and so on. I wholeheartedly reject this idea. Personally, I would rather Van Gogh not have been depressed and suicidal than Van Gogh create beautiful art. But I don't believe those things are mutually exclusive, either.

I do think that there is great value in art that stems from sadness. And mentally ill artists can create things influenced by their mental illness, which can then help other mentally ill people in the future. But I still believe that the best possible art does not have to grow out of misery. And we shouldn't treat misery as the greatest source of art.

Human life is more valuable than human art. That isn't to say that art isn't a a wonderful thing--it is, but the people who create it are more wonderful. One pretty painting does not have the same power as the human being who painted it. It's just pigment on canvas. Pencil on paper. You are a living, breathing person. You have more to offer the world than what a piece of art has to offer. You are more important.

Creativity and depression do not go hand in hand. They are not the same. No artist should feel the need to subject themselves to a certain amount of suffering to produce art because they think it might help them make better art. Maybe some of the best poetry I write comes from when I'm sad, but I can still write when I'm not sad. My creativity is not magically activated when I am depressed.

The truth is, for creative people who are depressed, sometimes continuing to push yourself to create art will only make you more depressed. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to take time to heal. I can say without a doubt that my depression does not make me a better artist or writer. It stops me from doing those things entirely. It stops me from believing in them, and believing in my ability to create something that has meaning.

I know I can't speak for every creative person with depression, but I can speak for myself. And I'd rather be happy.

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