Although it is hard to provide a definition of creativity that is both comprehensive and precise, I would argue that by and large, it represents a capability to combine and make use of one’s intelligence and imagination to present outputs or results of their hard work incorporating elements of uniqueness and originality. Of course, there are other additional aspects that could complete this notion, and madness or psychoticism is not one of them. To define the concept of madness, I would stick to the traditional explanation of a state of mind that is modified and aberrant (Koh, 2006). It is no coincidence that it is closely associated with a variety of mental disorders, including different kinds or levels of phobias, depressions, compulsions, and so on (Koh, 2006). As I see it, madness and creativity tend to be associated with totally different conditions.
Nevertheless, there is an opinion that creativity and madness are interrelated and interconnected. Some regard the connection between them from the biological/genetic perspective, others regard this link as a cognitive one (Koh, 2006). To my mind, the assertions made in this regard are not substantiated enough. Those who support the idea that there is an integral link between these two notions often cite the prominent representatives of art scene as examples of creative madmen. However, they tend to forget about the exceptions, that is, about numerous individuals – diagnosed with “madness” – who are unable to produce artworks fascinating successive generations of people. Some of these people might have been in possession of great social skills before they started to show signs of madness, which is not characteristic of geniuses with mental illnesses. That is, madness affects ordinary people too. It does not matter whether they are linked to the creative sphere or not.
Interestingly enough, when analyzing the ideas presented by Koh (2006) and Robinson (2011), one assumes that it is essential to keep in mind the ways in which societies tend to perceive creativity and madness. For instance, in the ancient times, people seemed to regard the latter as some sort of a divine inspiration, thus endowing it with a positive connotation, although nowadays, one often uses it in quite a negative sense by highlighting the abnormalities it presupposes (Koh, 2006). Creativity, in its turn, becomes an increasing trend. Both creativity and problem-solving are often listed as necessary qualities of professional expertise. That is exactly why Robinson (2011) insists that it is high time we reconsidered our understanding of creativity as a characteristic feature of special people by acknowledging that everybody can be and actually is creative to a certain extent. It, however, does not imply that everyone is mad.
I think it is up to us to decide whether there is a connection between creativity or madness or not. I still think that the idea about an intrinsic relationship between creativity and madness is just a fascinating myth creating a sense of mystery around eminent personalities and is not based on irrefutable evidence. It is important to take into account the fact that there is a number of other factors, including contextual, developmental, as well as social, psychological, and individual ones, and one should not ignore their existence. To my mind, the idea of the existence of mad geniuses is somewhat inappropriate as it seems that it is intended to divide people into hierarchical categories. Instead, one should place emphasis on individual peculiarities and other circumstances (including the above-mentioned factors) which drive people, including those showing a high level of creativity, to madness.
- Koh, C. (2006). Reviewing the link between creativity and madness: A postmodern perspective. Educational Research and Reviews, 1(7), 213-221.
- Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.