At What Point Does Creativity Meet Insanity?

Jacqueline Day / Unsplash

An hour or so before sunrise the birds begin to chirp. They know the new day is coming. They spread the word and their joy. Light is not far behind. The view outside my window transmutes into various shades of blue, pink, and purple.

I have yet to sleep. My sketch or painting has not spoken to me in that way it does when I know it’s finished, or my story is still a clusterfuck of words. Edit. Revise. Repeat.

Other days I wake during the darkest hours of night. I push my pencil, pound away at my keyboard, or press photos long before the birds stir. I can’t stop now. Not for food, water, it would risk my mojo. Eventually, the birds will force the others to rise. My household will become chaos. My focus diminished.

There’s an assortment of reasons, real reasons, I may not sleep at night. Insomnia or anxiety, panic, spiraling thoughts, paranoia, negative energy.

My stomach swirls with nausea, my body shakes, my mind races.

A minimum dash of insanity solidifies being creative. It can be all and any type. Mental health issues, emotional instability, or ignoring day-to-day problems that jab at us. The starting gun fires and I race from the gate. It’s my foundation for thinking outside of the box, pushing limits, projecting uniqueness.

Creating is similar to problem-solving. Ideas swirl in my head. How do I rework idea to paper? What medium do I use? Will it be viable to bring my work to the forefront of attention?

Non-creatives might think I have a natural gift, as if it’s a birthright, as if my hands make whatever I want them to. This is a fallacy. There is truth in, we create because we must but it’s a constant process traveling from mind, to soul, to a work of expression.

It does take work.

There are extremes, no firm grip, no follow through. These are the moments when creativity meets insanity.


Perfection is an extreme. It’s easy for me to become obsessed with a work of art or story before it goes public. I become irrational and frustrated with myself to the point where I can’t engage with the project for a while. This is very much so real to me and it eats me inside out.I place it on the back burner where I tell myself to leave it be, take some space, as I repeatedly go back to reread it or critique the texture again. I can’t let it go. I don’t have it in me. At this point, I’m doing more harm than good.

Creative perfection is no different than being a workaholic at a 9–5. Perhaps the only difference is a steady paycheck, a guaranteed income. In the beginning, I’m willing to starve myself until I can somehow gain traction. I forego money for the sake of passion.


When I put everything into my work, I slowly close myself off to the world around me, limiting human contact and heightening that already developed anxiety associated with agoraphobia. I bury myself in my work instead. Why go out there into the world? It’s unnecessary. I’m busy, and safe here. My mind plays tricks on me.

Many creatives past and present have experienced agoraphobia. Novelist- Shirley Jackson, entrepreneur- Howard Hughes, cooking sensation- Paula Dean, poet- Emily Dickinson, actress- Kim Basinger and actor- Macaulay Culkin, to name a few.

Some who experienced agoraphobia causing them to create, some who experienced it because they created.

Time goes by and I become so lost in what I’m doing; hours become days and I have yet to step outside. I could, with no qualms never leave my home and invest every waking moment in creating, so many ideas singing to me while I lay in bed at night.


The real obsession is transforming an idea into a work of art, surrounding myself in notes, research materials or pallets of paint.I must get it right. I must get it done. I can’t stop now.

No time management, organization, or hacks. There are only tunnel vision and intense focus. The open space surrounding me shrinks.

It’s an endless cycle. Idea becomes a project, a project becomes a work of art, a work of art needs to be marketed and so on, and so on.

The thing about obsession is, one builds up to another, piling on top of each other and smothering aspects of reality.

Maybe creativity does meet insanity or maybe this is my normal and that’s okay. I’m good. I’m comfortable. Introverted and, scheming and scribbling.

Mental illness is not a requirement to be creative but there are research studies which show us there is a significant link between the two, a crossroad where the brightest light comes from the darkest place.

Regardless of the assistance of medication, healthy diet, and regular exercise, there are times when I’m trapped inside a deep state of depression or spun on a rage of mania. The only control I have is the ability to utilize a means of an outlet, to release it.

Creativity saves me. TC mark


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