Well, friends, it's only one month until the release of Makeshift Galaxy, and things are starting to get exciting! This past weekend, I was invited to join a panel at Oz ComicCon Brisbane, with a wonderful bunch of creatives — Goran Zivanovic, Kathryn Gossow, Kate Foster and Vacen Taylor (L-R), where we spoke about the importance of looking after your mind, as an artist.
The connection between mental illness and creativity has been long documented, even before Van Gogh cut his ear off, and Virginia Woolf walked into a river with her pockets full of rocks — but are we artists because of this, or is this something that we trigger by exploring the depths of our mind so frequently? Such was the topic of this panel.
The links between mental illness and creativity are so often romanticised that they are rarely challenged. In fact, many artists attribute their talents to their mental health status, and creatives have long reported that medication stunts their art. Damn, even Aristotle talked about it — "no great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness".
As artists, whether you're a writer, illustrator, musician, film maker, graphic designer, or creative in any other way, we spend so much time within our own heads, finding the right words, strokes, colours and compositions. Perhaps when we're in there, exploring the depths of our minds, spending much more time in a place non-creatives often daren't enter, we find things we don't want? Perhaps, we spend so much time listening to our inner voice that we let it take over.
For me, this inner voice is the source of a lot of anxiety, linked directly to my work. 90% of the time, I am the most confident person in the room, but ask me to read out my writing, or show you my illustrations? Argh! My heart starts beating, the room closes in, my voice shakes, my face flushes — I'm a mess! These feelings are only tied to my work, I have never experienced them in any other area of my life. The little voice inside my head screams that they won't like it, that my work sucks, overanalysing every damn word as it leaves my lips. Maybe this is something to do with it, the fear of rejection and judgement? As artist's we thrust the inner workings of our mind onto a stage, and ask the world whether they like it, or not — that's the most terrifying thing in the world!
In reality, the causes differ from person to person, as do the symptoms, triggers and severity. Whilst I find comfort in shifting my mindset and working through the moments, others need medication, therapy and intersection. We're all so different, in every way, and that's what makes art so damn good.
But when your mental health starts to tear you down, get help, whether you need a doctor or a moment alone. The below exercise has helped me in times of need.
Grounding is a wonderful little, easy to remember exercise to pull yourself out of your head and plant yourself back into reality. Take a second, and work through the following.
What are five things that you can see?
What are four things that you can hear?
What are three things that you can touch?
What are two things that you can smell?
What is one thing that you can taste?
I should take a moment to say that I am not an expert, and my views above are purely speculation and lived experiences. If you experience any mental issues, tied to creativity or not, please see your GP, and seek help where you can. This isn't a sign of weakness, in fact, admitting that you need a hand is the strongest damn thing that you can do.
Thanks to Vacen Taylor for inviting me to ComicCon this weekend, and allowing me to talk about this with a bunch of other rad creatives, and opening the discussions with audiences. The more we can talk about this, the more we can remove the stigma.
Until next time,