Robert Greene: Mastery and Pop Drug Culture

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“In Western culture a particular myth has evolved that drugs or madness can somehow lead to creative births of the highest order. How else to explain the work that John Coltrane did while hooked on heroin – or the great works of the playwright August Strinberg, who seemed clinically insane. Their work is so spontaneous and free, so far beyond the power of the rational and conscious mind. This is a cliche however that is easily debunked. Coltrane himself admitted that he did his worst work while hooked on heroin.  It was destroying him and his creative powers. He kicked the habit in 1957 and never looked back. Biographers who studied the letters and journals of Steindberg discovered a man who was quite histrionic in public, but who in private life was extremely disciplined. The effect of madness created in his plays is very consciously crafted. Understand: to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great disciple, self-control, and stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field – drugs and madness only destroy such powers. Do not fall for the romantic myths and cliches that abound in popular culture about creativity – offering the excuse and panacea that such powers can come cheaply. When you look at the exceptionally creative work of masters you must not ignore the years of practice, endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.”