September 15, 2013 by
Like many creative types, I struggle with clinical depression. The trick here is that “clinical depression” often means “depression that we’ve tried to medicate.” Many writers, artists, and “non-creative” people struggle with undiagnosed depression, or at least depression that’s manageable enough that they haven’t yet taken a psychiatric route. In talking extensively on this topic with two of my close friends (both of whom are also writers and both of whom suffer from depression), it became apparent to me that this association is painfully common and that there may well be some practical explanations.
The word should really mean any act of creation, but we tend to mean something else when we talk about creativity. For most common uses of the term, creativity typically means an ability to come up with non-obvious ideas and see new connections. Imagination and creativity are intertwined in our conception; they are both ways of thinking between ideas rather than about them. In fact, a functional definition is that creativity is the ability to think expansively.
Our minds can approach concepts with various levels of “zoom.” We can zoom in the finer details or zoom out to see the big picture. Creative types tend to have a wider picture of the world, which allows us to twine together seemingly disparate concepts and come up with less obvious ideas. We often see the world for its possibilities rather than its realities. I think this is the starting point for understanding why creativity and depression are linked...