Creative Angst

“In The Courage to Be Paul Tillich mentions the Creative as being unable to accept into or create a unity with himself and reality due to a profound dissatisfaction with it as well as with the ‘absolute threat of nonbeing.’ The problem that arises from this dissatisfaction is that one is then faced with extreme anxiety, which is defined as a state of constant worry and unease due to a situation. Since the situation in question (living itself) is somewhat inescapable, ‘Anxiety turns toward courage, because the other alternative is despair. Courage resists despair by taking anxiety into itself.’ Despair would lead to a kind of escape, but that sort which promises no greater comfort for the anxious and for that reason is often a last resort. Tillich asserts that the ‘average person keeps himself away from the extreme situations by dealing courageously with concrete objects of fear. He usually is not aware of nonbeing and anxiety in the depth of his personality.’ However, ‘He who does not succeed in taking his anxiety courageously upon himself can succeed in avoiding the extreme situation of despair by escaping into neurosis.’

This neurosis is present in many a creative individual because these people are thinkers, sensitive, and unable to ignore their own anxiety, thus having to turn to this method of coping when despair becomes unbearable…The anxiety of the neurotic is what leads him to create alternate worlds: both the artist and the man of logic throws himself into a type of problem-solving which is idiosyncratic on some level. The ‘world’ they create is not necessarily the stereotypical castle of imaginary wonders or something so concrete as the very stylistically differentiable works of some artists…  No, the world is a mental construct wherein one is safe to evaluate reality on his own terms and to create based on his dissatisfactions.”

— World Creators or What I Wish Someone Explained to Me Years Ago

I believe this angst is derived from the existential burden of possibility. Creative minds are not subjected to the same constraining ideologies and conventional ways of thinking that govern the behaviors and thoughts of the rest of the population. They ordain entirely new worlds of thought, preferring to reside among the more familiar comforts of their alien mind, while others look on with the curious perplexity of imitation.

Creative minds do not easily conform to transplanted opinions and beliefs of the whole. Hence, before the feet of the creative lies the question of being, and with it, the responsibility of being. The fear of non-being is the source of madness driving the creative mind to declare their being through thoughts and actions wholly original and reflective of their world. The responsibility of being creates an existential angst, an anxiety overwhelmed by endless possibilities and limitless freedom to be or not be. Creativity is the ultimate expression of free and true being. With it comes a deluge of choice which dilutes the value of meaning into arbitrary and trivial contrivances.

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