Rose Montero She has dedicated a good part of her career as a writer to investigating the links between art and mind. titles like the madwoman of the house either The ridiculous idea not to see you again They play in this league. Similar case is The danger of being sane (Seix Barral), a title that combines essay, fiction and testimonial, to investigate the creative act, madness and creativity.
This book is the continuation of a creative process of more than 40 years and that implies grounding what you have learned as a writer.
It is a book that has carried me all my life. It recovers questions that have been going around my head all the time, that’s why it starts by saying: “I’ve always known that something was wrong inside my head and I’ve known that since I was a child”. I have always wondered what kind of head I had and that was accentuated at the age of 17, with my first panic attacks. Since he thought I was crazy, he needed to answer me in a more urgent way about what was happening to me. We novelists usually start writing as children. I have invested the best hours of my life to be in a corner of my house, locked up, alone, inventing lies. That is an absurd and bizarre truth, but why do we do it? All of this has always turned me around and that is why it continues to appear like an underground river. Many of the characters in my novels are people with mental disorders. From books like the madwoman of the house, mental health, reality, sanity or madness, have been my themes. Four years ago I received a telegram from my unconscious that told me that my next book would be about creation and madness, the incredible thing is that I managed to answer questions that I had for years.
There are authors who say that one writes to question oneself and not so much to find answers.
One does not write to ask questions, but to try to understand the world and learn. You ask yourself questions to try to answer them. You don’t write to teach but to put a little light in the darkness that you carry inside; to illuminate and answer your obsessions. In this book I learned much more than in others and in a more conscious way. I have answered essential things for me. In order to find an answer, you first have to know what to ask and that is great wisdom. The meaning of writing is to search for the meaning of existence.
What is the meaning of existence?
Giving meaning to your life is a work of art. I think the world doesn’t make sense. There is obviously no meaning. Neither philosophies nor religions have been able to find an answer to such basic questions as the origin of evil or pain. You will not find the meaning of all this if you are not a believer of any religion, but the human brain is a tenacious artifact and tries to find a meaning that will serve you while you live.
Several of the biographies that he reviews in the book have to do with creators who went through traumatic events and creativity helped them as an exit channel.
To make a work, be it good or bad, a conjunction of enormous coincidences is needed. Studying expert neurologists, psychiatrists, writers, artists and self-analysis itself, I conclude that a series of circumstances are needed, among which are: a childhood trauma, a great physical energy or an unfolding in the face of that trauma. There are people who never get to build a work, but the theory of my book is that they have the same kind of head. Perhaps within those 100 circumstances that the artist needs, he has 99, he is missing one and that is why they do not get to build a work, but the head is basically the same. Another condition of those of us who have this type of head is that we skip one of the steps of neurological maturation. One phase of maturation that occurs in early puberty is the pruning of unhelpful neurological connections. 20% of people belong to that species of what Marcel Bruce calls, the magnificent and unfortunate family of the nervous.
Specialists such as Kay Jamison have spoken of a tendency towards bipolarity in writers.
Since Aristotle there is talk of a relationship between madness and creativity. Aristotle said that it was extraordinary to see and verify how all men of artistic merit had an excess of black bile. Now statistics show that artists have a higher tendency to mental disorder and suicide. Experts agree that creativity is not madness, what we wrongly call madness is the serious mental disorder of psychosis. Those writers or artists who have drifted into severe psychotic disorders have stopped creating. There is no comparison between creativity and madness. My theory is that they are cousins. The difference between a patient with a serious mental disorder and a good or bad creator is quantitative and not qualitative. Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize winning doctor, says that every mental disorder, from the most serious to the smallest, is due to a failure in the neurological wiring, that is, to how our neurons interact. Those of us who dedicate ourselves to creative work have a different wiring.
Could an effective artistic education contribute to coping with or better treating illnesses or mental disorders?
Surely yes. It could help us lead life better and I am no longer just talking about people’s creative capacity, that has always been sustained by the aesthetic sense, which acts on us in a serene, complete, healing and therapeutic way. A number of studies have been carried out and there have been interventions in conflictive and terrifying neighborhoods in Colombia that have been fixed and painted, and violence has decreased. It has always been known that if you fix a conflictive area, the excesses in the street are minor. It is not only about promoting the creative part but also about promoting enjoyment. We have to learn to recognize that mental disorder in all its varieties is an essential part of what it is to be human. The WHO says – I think it’s a tremendously conservative estimate – that 25 percent of the population will experience a mental disorder at some point in their lives, which is super common. This, which is something absolutely elemental in the life of a human being, has been kept hidden, denied, stigmatized and completely silenced, this indeed makes a society a truly pathological world. If we really manage to remove that lid, talk, learn about mental disorders, not stigmatize people with mental disorders and add social loneliness to psychological loneliness, which is extremely painful; and if we manage to incorporate them into the world, society will be much less unhappy and much less sick.
How has writing changed your relationship with panic attacks?
I do not change. I had three stages of seizures, each lasting about a year and a half. At 17, 21 and 30 years old, and since then I haven’t had any. I have the theory, because it has not only happened to me, that the fact of continuously publishing fiction made the attacks go away. That is why I say that it is so necessary to welcome people who have a mental disorder and bring them to this side of the world, anchor them to reality, because mental disorder is loneliness, it takes you away from the world, it is a break from the common narrative. I started working as a journalist when I was 19 years old, but journalism does not serve to join the world in this way. I’ve been writing fiction since I was five years old, but I didn’t publish it, if you write it and don’t publish it it doesn’t work either, the healing formula is to write fiction and publish it so that people feel: your emotions are my emotions”, that unites you to the world.
Did this book bring you serenity?
It has given me an amazing sense of accomplishment. It has been an intellectual satisfaction, an achievement of life. Suddenly there is a network that unites them and gives them meaning. Those things are important, they are my very life. Understanding these things that have been so important to me has been an achievement and gives a sense of serenity.