A while back, in my post The Creative Process, I wrote these words:
There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously. This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation. Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed. Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished. Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day. Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about.
At the risk of being stigmatized or stereotyped, I’m going to open up about one such theory. It is said that some very creative people have Bipolar Disorder; and it is also quite possible that I might be one of those people. If so, it is possible that, for me, the stage of “incubation” corresponds to the low end of the bipolar mood swing, commonly referred to as depression. Then, the stage of “illumination,” – and all the satisfying work that follows – may correspond to the high end of the swing, commonly referred to as mania. I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been writing this play, I’ve been cycling back and forth between these two stages — whatever they’re to be called – and that the cycling has been occurring like clockwork.
However, when I read the symptoms of the disorder, they seemed to me to be much more extreme in general than what I was experiencing. It may surprise you, for example, that I wasn’t so concerned about the low end of the ebb. Sure I was depressed when my sister died. Of course I was depressed when, three days later, we in America elected a reckless and unscrupulous, inexperienced buffoon to be our chief political officer. I was also more than a little depressed whenever I was first trying to break through my three-year Writer’s Block, and could not get my mind off how my failure to make progress with this piece seemed inextricably linked to a failed 45 year friendship. But as far as depression that would be experienced as part of a cyclic mood swing — no, I did not experience depression at any level nearly commensurate with the awful accounts I read about. If anything, I felt a bit annoyed that I seemed creatively dry, and I was eager for the situation to change.
It was what happened when the situation changed that concerned me. True, I would have incredibly satisfying bursts of long-winded creative accomplishment, such as the day when I wrote for sixteen hours. It’s also true that I would sometimes enter into elation, and feel that I needed neither sleep nor food, on the premise that my soul was being fed. While excessive goal orientation and loss of interest in food or sleep are both known symptoms of a bipolar “manic episode,” I still wasn’t concerned. What concerned me was that I became so happy that I was finally getting into my script again, after an infuriating three year Writer’s Block, I could barely sleep at night for excitement. All I could do was lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about who was going to be playing what part on Broadway, and what my acceptance speech would look like when I picked up my Tony Award.
So I went to the clinic and saw a doctor, who had me fill out a simple questionnaire. He wound up diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar,” and put me on a low dosage of a bipolar medication. This turn of events seemed reasonable to me. My level of bipolarity, so to speak, is not so huge as to cause gross disruptions in my personal, social, and professional relationships. However, it is pronounced enough to have caused me to become concerned and seek medical attention, before the situation should worsen.
It has now been ten days since I began taking the medication. Although at first I didn’t enjoy its effects at all, I’ve begun to notice some things that I can’t help but interpret as positive. Let me list a few:
- If a problem is solved during Writers Guild meetings as a result of intelligent feedback from the other Writers, I don’t become so excited about it that I can’t focus on applying the solution.
- I no longer lay awake in bed all night fantasizing about future successes, but rather wind down normally, do some light reading, and drift off into sleep.
- I’m more relaxed in my work situation, and less anxious about missing my cues.
- Probably most significantly, the amount of time spent in what I’ve been calling the “incubation” or “depressed” period is significantly reduced – at no expense whatsoever to the amount of time spent in the highly productive period. The only difference is that I am now more inclined to stop the production, get some food or rest, and continue the high level of productivity the next day.
As to point #4 above, I’m in the process of getting the first Scene of Act two prepared, which will include the musical number I call Hunted. I wrote this in 2012, when I first conceived of this musical, as described on this page. I’m eager to finish the lyrics, and apply its dynamics to the current incarnation of Eden in Babylon. In the meantime, I’ve linked to a instrumental recording of it below. It is my hope, like that of any other Artist, that you will take a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate my work.
from Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2012, 2o17 by Andrew Michael Pope.
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