The Creative Potential Of The Mentally Unhinged

Today I read this book titled Requiem For A Paper Bag, when I came across a simple anecdotal story of how Herman Melville was writing one of his many lengthy letters to his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Apparently in the letter, Melville states how he wished that a paper mill existed in his house so that the seemingly unending letter to Hawthorne could, in fact, be endless. (The letter.)

Herman Melville
Herman Melville

Soon after, I realized that a modern-day term for writing obsession such as was the case with Herman Melville is graphomania.  One might even go so far as to say that Melville is crazy or somewhat unhinged, although it is possible to theorize that he simply had a lot of thoughts or insights to share.

Nathaniel awthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Whatever the case may be, Herman Melville, like most writers, was able to become so prolific as a writer simply due to the fact that he sought a deeper meaning in life.  Most writers, artists, photographers, and other highly creative people are constantly in search of a deeper meaning behind that which most others dismiss as simply commonplace or mundane.  In modern society, art and insights that speak of a deeper meaning are often dismissed as unimportant by a world full of people who are interested only in the exterior appearance.  As a writer myself, I am far more interested in deeper meanings and insights.

(See Also: Why I Believe In Things Unseen)

I think my curiosity for the unknown started when I watched a movie from the 1980’s where a group of kids break into an abandoned apartment (as I recall, through a window?).  For the life of me, I can’t remember the title of the movie.  Anyways, as the years went by, I sought out these kinds of places to see what others left behind; it is almost like a modern-day archeology with time measured in decades instead of centuries.

With all of this introspection, observation, and exploration that is necessary to facilitate creativity and/or creation itself, I cannot help but to wonder what Mr. Melville was seeking to create, communicate, or achieve.  I can only speculate what the end result would have been if an obsessed compulsive writer like Melville lived in this century and wrote a blog.  In his time, his writing was limited to his supply of ink and paper, whereas today it is limited to the scarcity of our time.


  • Maury Cheskes

    Really interesting piece. Most prolific artists are definitely a bit eccentric. I love that we get an idea of what drew you to photograph abandoned places and settings. I agree that creative minds are always seeking deeper meaning and it puts things in perspective that we don’t have to rely solely on ink and paper anymore.

  • AMAN

    Both the writers’ s story depicts a lot about their mental approach. Their thinking is very wide and with various thoughts embedded in them.

  • Alex

    I hope what he means by unhinge is not you know crazy ha ha. Anyway anyone has potential The real question how do you let that out? Let alone how do you pinpoint it? Anyway the potential is always in us. Whether we use it or not? that is our own choice.

  • Prince

    Speculation are just ones instinct, no bad feelings. It also atimes guide someone to the right path. Thanks for sharing what it takes to be creative

  • Jerry

    This caught my eyes a writer needs to be in deeper thought to harness the inside to give the best writing. You just spoke to me

  • Patricia

    Wow, I never even knew that there existed such a thing as graphomania. Thanks to your write up I have learnt something new today.

  • Oliver

    I totally agree that introspection, observation, and exploration are integral in what makes a great writer. Very well written Thomas.

  • laura

    Writers are lot more thoughtful than we think. To hold people captive or spellbound with your work, then you must be matured in mind and be intuitive.

  • Glad

    Oh! of course if Melville was born in a generation that is computer savvy, he wouldn’t wish to have a paper mill but rather he would have great access to the internet where anything and everything happens. He would definitely have been a great blogger.

  • Danielle M

    I love how artists look for a deeper meaning and a sense of purpose in life. They project it in their creations and that inspires other people.

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