Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The Guardian has an interesting piece about the link between musicians and depression. This has long been a sort of "chicken-or-egg" discussion I've found fascinating. Do creative people create because they're depressed or are their mitigating factors about being creative that cause or worsen depression?
I think it may be a little of Column A and a little of Column B. On the one hand, creative outlets are an attractive way of dealing with personal demons, often giving a sense of catharsis to the creator. This is only broadened when, for example, one can get up in front of a venue full of people, and get positive feedback on one's self-expression. There is a sense of feeling not so alone - of feeling understood, even if only superficially.
On the other hand, much of what goes along with being a musician, reinforces the negative emotions. Most accomplished musicians I know are never satisfied with their work. There is a sense of "chasing the dragon", or seeking some imaginary ideal of perfection they most likely will never reach. Heaven forbid you receive a bad review or feel like the message you're trying to convey has been lost on the audience. Add in the conditions of touring (night after night of little sleep, excessive drinking or drug use, eating shitty food), and you have a recipe that would test even the most cheerful demeanor.
Depression is something that runs in my family and something I've dealt with on and off for a long time. I can honestly say that I think music has saved my life on many occasions. Even when the deck seemed stacked against me, even when I've felt my most hopeless, I've taken comfort in the fact that I can sit down behind the keyboard and lose myself for an hour or two.
Of course, history shows us that creativity in itself isn't some sort of panacea. We've lost countless brilliant artists, writers, and musicians before their time because their pain was too much for them to bear. But I like to think having a creative outlet at the very least gives you a leg up on those who don't when it comes to getting through hard times.
What do you think? I'd love to hear reader's thoughts on this topic!