All right, seems like a vague question. So first I’ll explain my idea of creativity. To me, being creative means presenting something unique and powerful to the world—a fresh perspective on what can be a deadened landscape; a perspective that can change the way people think about and live their lives. And to me this means inhabiting, for an indefinite amount of time, the ideas you’re trying to present.
Fiction writers, for example, must deeply and meaningfully live within their characters on the page, seeing the world in all the strange, wonderful, distorted ways their characters must see it. For actors, it’s becoming those characters on stage, channeling their thoughts and feelings in an authentic physical way. Publicity experts and advertisers must truly understand their target audience in order to generate a successful campaign, and that often means weeks, months and often years of research and sleepless nights of immersing themselves in a different culture—again, a different perspective.
So again my question: What is the price of such powerful creativity? Of the art and work and struggle of presenting something meaningful and unique to the world?
The late Heath Ledger said in interviews that he became deeply troubled, even depressed, during and after his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s no wonder why. Ledger gave an incredible performance, giving the character a chilling new complexity and darkness. But he had to inhabit the character to do so, and it became a part of his off-screen life. It’s impossible to completely separate what you are portraying from who you are.
And I think that’s the real answer. I think the price of genuine creativity is allowing (or being unable to prevent) the process and struggle to take over other aspects of your life. If you’re not willing to lose sleep, to obsess, to cry, to be absolutely ecstatic, then you’re not willing to be truly creative. Some would argue that it’s a high price, not always being able to simply “turn off” at 5:00 p.m., grab a beer, and plop on the couch—but isn’t it the ache, the fever, the obsession that make the end product something worth being proud of?