This goes back a while, but it’s still fun.
If you are a writer, an artist, a musician, an actor, or a sculptor, I’m about to tell you something that might make you go, ‘Aaaah It all falls into place now.’ It seems that Seneca the Younger was right all along when he said, ‘there is no great genius without some touch of madness.’
Studies on genomes of nearly 90,000 Icelanders had previously established some causal link between genome and schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They chose Iceland because of the country’s extensive medical and genealogy records, which you’d expect to be good given it’s pretty tiny. But this finding has been shown repeatedly since, and things go from bad to worse for us creative luvvies.
In one study, involving 150,000 people, if you have a relative with schizophrenia or bipolar, you’re more likely than the general public to be a creative professional. Carry the DNA variants associated with those two illnesses, and you may well be a creative sort only just to the south of being mentally unstable. Certainly One-eared Vincent, to name but one, had a very tenuous grip on reality, and you don’t have to think too hard to identify a host of others.
I might have dismissed this, but there were some heavy hitters in the research teams, including people from Duke University in the US, and a squad of Swedes who are unnaturally good at epidemiology, as I think I mentioned before. There’s a clear link here, and it may not surprise people who know me, or who know the merry band of writers I hang about with, but it’s a bit of a worry. I’ve struggled with depression for many years, and I’ve found a correlation that doesn’t seem to make sense. When I’m really dragging along the bottom, that’s when I start hitting the keyboard best. The worse I am, the better I am. I think that’s a wee bit odd, but there again nobody ever accuses me of being normal. Now I have a Get Out Of Jail Free card. It’s genetic.