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June 10, 1983

Creativity and Disease: How Illness Affects Literature, Art and Music

Author Affiliations

La Grange Park, III

JAMA. 1983;249(22):3100-3101. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330460072046

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Creativity and Disease is a small book with a large mission. It is a successful investigation of the relationship between artistic creativity and illness. The link between disease and creativity is explained in many ways. First, illness may function to motivate the artist. In this sense, the artist compensates for his physical impairment with an artistic creation. His impairment may free him from convention and tradition. Beethoven's hearing loss and musical achievements serve as an example. Second, illness may foster creativity by preventing other activities so that the artist focuses on his work. Creativity becomes therapeutic, and the artist finds refuge from disease in his art, as did Matisse and Montaigne. Finally, illness may directly enhance the senses and amplify the insight of the artist. Dostoevsky, for example, believed that the altered state of mind associated with epilepsy led to supranormal experiences. To a large degree, creativity is dependent on