Chronic Creativity

After watching the film, A Midwinter's Tale by Kenneth Branagh, my husband and I got into a discussion about the peaks and valleys of creativity. As a medical professional, my husband perfectly came up with the term, "malaise" to describe the valleys of creativity.

The life of one infected with Chronic Creativity is weaved with valleys of malaise. Periods of debilitation and despondency often precede heightened moments of creativity. Malaise is a very important part of the creative cycle but it can also be overwhelming when it is not understood.

Periods of CC malaise can best be described as moments of depression, lack of creativity, and overall uneasiness. These periods can be described as valleys, or low points, when all inspiration seems to be dried up. In this sense, malaise can also be termed as "creative drought." The individual seems to want to give up on being creative during this cycle.

Malaise also comes after great moments of inspiration and fruitful creativity. In my opinion, malaise is the body's natural way of bringing balance to the CC mind. During this time, the mind is somewhat "forced" into resting. Meanwhile, the brain is relaxing and being silently rejuvenated. Because of this, I see malaise as being a very normal and healthy symptom.

Periods of malaise can come at varying intervals and can last for varying amounts of time. They can last for days, weeks, months, and even years. Malaise can be extremely unpredictable. It is a symptom that knows not time. In fact, it doesn't seem to care about time. This unpredictable timing can be extremely frustrating. Periods of malaise are also confusing because they can be present in certain areas yet void in other areas of the Chronically Creative life.

Writing from my own experience, I can look back and see definite patterns in which I experienced malaise and totally gave up on expressions of my creativity such as playing keyboard, songwriting, and writing. First of all, I can clearly remember an entire year that I refused to play my keyboard. I became tired of it and saw no hope or future with it. I didn't seem to have any hint of passion to play anymore. I couldn't find a good reason to play. So I refused to play.

The keyboard collected dust on the floor of my bedroom. However, this great period of malaise came just before I was asked to be the church keyboard player. Now I have been consistently playing the keyboard for the past six years. I am eager to play and love every minute of it!

Secondly, I remember having a period of malaise that lasted for about five years in the area of serious writing. Again, I didn't feel any passion to write. I didn't see any hope in it. I couldn't bring myself to sit down and write seriously. That period of malaise was broken a few months ago when I found the inspiration and energy to write this series.

Finally, I have been experiencing malaise in the area of songwriting for the last six months now. I haven't had any ambition to write music. I have felt "lazy" about it as well as hopeless. However, now that I understand malaise, I am confident that at any given time I will begin songwriting again with a great fervency!

Malaise is accompanied by tremendous hopelessness. The individual with CC may give up entirely on some expression of his or her creativity. The individual feels lazy about it, lacks motivation, and is void of passion. He or she may attempt to create during a period of malaise but will quickly give up because the task requires too much energy. The individual then gives up and believes the creative expression to be dead. However, in reality, the creative expression is not dead. It is just resting so that it can return with a greater fervency!

I do believe that it is possible to create during a phase of malaise. However, it is not optimal. In my opinion, creative expressions should not be forced, frustrating, and burdensome. I, personally, will lay aside a creative idea when I see that I am getting too angry and frustrated over it. I receive the frustration as a clue to "rest on it." Sometimes, just giving in to a half day of malaise can be extremely beneficial to allow my brain to rest.

The great news about the valley of malaise is that on the other side awaits a mountain bursting with greater creative inspiration. Expect to see cycles of inspiration followed by malaise and then followed by even greater inspiration. Without the valleys of malaise, I am not sure that creative cycles would grow in the CC life. There is something about resting from creative thoughts that fuel future cycles of inspiration.

In addition, the CC individual would eventually burn out from operating out of a continuous cycle of creative energy. Creativity, even in the life of the Chronically Creative, has its own rhythms. There is a time to create. And there is a time to rest. Recognizing, expecting, and understanding this important symptom is vital in the life of the individual infected with CC. •

This excerpt is from Chronic Creativity: A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected ©2001 Angela K. Mack. All rights reserved.

Angela K. MackAngie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More