As I write this week’s blog post, our world is still reeling from the sudden and tragic death of actor/comedian Robin Williams.
He was one of the greatest actors of this generation, and one of my personal favorites. I think it was something about his eyes that always got me; behind all the jokes, laughter and craziness his characters could bring to the screen was a kindness and humanity that isn’t always there in someone so famous and successful. He just seemed so real in every role he played, and the same light that jumped out of his eyes and off the screen changed me each and every time I saw him. Maybe it’s because I have a rich, personal history in the theatre that I recognized and appreciated the greatness in him. But I will always remember him as not only a master of his craft, but as an intense and multi-layered human being that embraced life and what he loved to do boldly and without fear.
Like Robin Williams, many brilliant artists struggle with some pretty dark personal demons. Mental illness is no respecter of persons, and hopefully, Robin Williams’ death will be an ever-present reminder of this debilitating and deadly disease, and bring more attention to it than ever before. But why do artists seem to fall prey to depression and mental illness more easily than others? I wish I had the answer, but all I can do is speculate based on my own experience. I have never struggled with depression, but the artist’s life that writers, actors, painters, designers, musicians and others live can be demanding in a way that non-artists find difficult to understand. You see, we want to be perfect at what we do, but at the same time share our hearts and souls with the world around us. We don’t mean to overwhelm others with the thoughts and feelings we have, but sometimes it happens. And when an artist puts his or her work out there, it’s such a deeply personal experience that the risk of rejection, and then the rejection itself can be devastating.
Artists demand a lot from themselves and the people around them. It’s not easy to come along for the emotional roller coaster ride that loved ones find themselves on at times. But when the ride slows down, being in relationship with a creative person can be more joyful than any other experience in the world. Artists seem to love harder, fight longer and experience life more deeply just because of how they are wired. This could explain why depression can weave its way into the mind more easily, because the mind of an artist is so wide open to beauty and so vulnerable to the challenges life throws its way.
I am by no means an expert here. But like you, I’ve needed to try and sort through some of the possible whys to such a bright light in the world being extinguished in such a way. Let’s hope he is the last.
Rest in Peace Robin Williams. We will miss you!
Sensibility- Everyone has a story. Being aware of the struggles of others can help you reach out when a friend or loved one is in need.
Sense- Mental illness is no respecter of persons. If you or someone you love struggles with depression, there is help available.
What do you do to get out of your writing cave or artistic zone that helps you maintain a positive attitude and overall sense of well-being?
2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Artist’s Life: In Memory of Robin Williams”
Thanks for your thoughtful words, Patti. I appreciate what you said about the mind of an artist being wide open to beauty and vulnerability.
Thanks Ann…I think it’s hard for people who are not of that mindset not to look at all of this through a black and white lens, and it just isn’t black and white, ever. My heart goes out to anyone who suffers from mental illness or has a loved one who suffers. It’s a disease like so many others that ends lives too soon!