The apparent suicide of Robin Williams is a great tragedy. He was certainly a guy tuned into the collective humour of humanity. He felt things deeply and brought people together in laughter.
Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing an idea offered in the media that his death means creativity and suicide are connected. What an antiquated, wrong notion. People from all walks of life commit suicide—it isn’t connected to their profession or even necessarily their personality traits. There’s no single cause. Often times a ‘depressed’ person sees and feels more than the average person, not less.
I say this because the idea that creative people are more suicidal than others seems to be back in force. Not only does this dissuade young people from following creative careers, but it also isolates creative people from connection to the larger sense of community. It seems that both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams felt this sense of isolation, and perhaps that is part of why they turned to drugs to fill up feelings of emptiness.
I look back at Robin Williams’ appearances on the old Tonight Show, and I see a loose comedic genius. We, as a society, don’t really allow that anymore. If someone speaks out of turn or cracks a joke that isn’t tested for political correctness, they get crucified for it. So creatives learn to suppress their true selves, hoping to fit in with the up-tights. Everything becomes puritanical and sanitized for the feeble minded.
And I’ve felt the same sense of isolation in following my creative calling and especially after putting out my first novel. There is literally no one to talk to about the deeper meanings behind my writing. No one is in my tree. The silence and isolation faced by creative people (and perhaps all of us) hasn’t been this bad since I was a little kid. I often feel like I can get more feedback screaming into a canyon.
The idea of the chasm within in my novel is the very thing that I think people like Robin Williams may have felt—shadows on the wall from the collective—a nothingness that inspires and overwhelms…