Sometimes I feel like my friends can’t quite take me seriously when I tell them how much art school is stressing me. When I hear myself describe to them what we do in our courses (like dressing up and dancing around cardboard sculptures of alien Christmas trees), I sometimes find it difficult to take myself seriously. However, as most people that work in a creative field would probably tell you, it really is stressful. Being creative is intense. Apart from the financial uncertainty and competitiveness that tend to run in these professions, the work itself is very demanding, mentally and emotionally. It is very easy to become personally invested in a project, some might even call this is a necessity. Because they are so closely intertwined, it is often difficult to separate between the professional and the personal. How does this affect the way we deal with issues of mental and emotional wellbeing in this context?
In Product Design, we are constantly brought to question our surroundings, our decisions, and most importantly, ourselves. There has been a crisis point in almost any project where this turned into seriously doubting myself and hating all the work I had done. Sometimes, it led to absolute public meltdowns. To me it is a strange and uncomfortable feeling to share such intimate moments with people I work with.
Many of my friends that study creative subjects have told me about similar experiences in their lives, particularly about struggles with insecurity and stress of varying degrees. Are these emotional strains simply an occupational hazard that we as creatives have to accept? Are they something we should embrace, something we actually need to produce meaningful work? There seems to be a romanticized idea of the tragically ailed, mad genius, based on the stories of countless artists like van Gogh or Beethoven that produced some of their best work during periods of Depression or Hypomania. Joshua Walters proposes in his Ted Talk ‘On being just crazy enough’, that those suffering from mental conditions might just be more sensitive to the world than others and that we can use our ‘skillness’ to our advantage. Many scientific studies suggest in fact, that there is a link between creativity and mental illness. One theory is that those with strong creative inclination perceive the world with a heightened awareness and tend to be more reflective and ruminate in their thoughts.
For me, a host of questions and problematics arise out of this. How do these factors influence people in creative fields in reaching out when in distress? At what point does these different pressures stop aiding creativity and start impeding it? What are your thoughts?