The Star: June 13, 2019


The Star Thursday June 13 2019



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Combatting the stress of being creative

• By Georgia O’Connor-



and author Jeff Crabtree has two

ultimate goals for the performing

arts community – longevity and


“What if we could get these

amazing people to live longer

lives and produce over a longer

period of time. Wouldn’t that be

a better world?”

It is why Crabtree and his wife

Julie are bringing their more

than 15 years-in-the-making

research on creativity and mental

health to the city for the first

time in July.

Living with a Creative Mind

Symposium aims to help people

with creative minds to uncover

how their mind is wired and why

their lives may be led at such


The workshop will focus on

about 27 methods including

practising mindfulness to help

creatives to not become vulnerable

to anxiety or depression.

Based in Sydney, Crabtree is

a musician who specialises in

gospel blues and film scoring.

His wife, Julie is a psychologist

specialising in issues associated

with creative artists and performers.

Under their company Zebra

Collective, in 2010 they published

Living with a Creative

Mind – an operating handbook

for a creative person.

A key problem is often creatives

have a quality called skinlessness

– which means they take

in the emotional state of people

around them, Crabtree said.

“You might go to a social function

and have a great time. But

a person really skinless is going

there and they are feeling overwhelmed

. . . they are picking up

everyone else’s stress.

“A lot of people are selfmedicating

. . . it is not that they

have suddenly gone off the deep

end morally, they are needing

to do something to help cope,”

Crabtree said.

He said he wants to equip

creatives with tools to help them

live better lives without them

becoming addicted to nonprescription


How can you tell if you have a

creative mind? Crabtree said it is

as easy as getting a psychologist

to get you to take a test.

“I think the best way to think

of creative thinking is having

two opposites,” he said.

On one side, creative people

are often left-field or out-of-thebox

thinkers while the other is

they are logical and disciplined.

“I think there is this idea that

people that produce creatively is

they have this airy-fairy jumping

around like a butterfly

kind of life and there is

part of them that is like


But Crabtree said just

about every creative

professional he has met is

highly disciplined.

“Look no further than

Sir Peter Jackson – look

at all the interview

material with him. There

is part of him almost

whimsical and fay . . . on the

other he is incredibly disciplined.”

He said creativity is a way of

thinking – it is not only musicians,

artists and painters – it is

Philip Seymour



Jeff and Julie

Crabtree want

creatives to

live long and

productive lives.

businessmen and entrepreneurs,

Crabtree said.

“I don’t know Jacinda Ardern

at all but her approach to the

recent events tell me she has deployed

a different way to thinking

than standard . . .

she is regarded as out

of the box.”

One of Crabtree’s

key concerns is there

is a strong association

between drug-taking

and the creative industry.

A study conducted

by mental health organisation


Assist in 2016

showed 44 per cent of workers

in the Australian entertainment

industry had moderate to severe


This is 10 times higher in the

entertainment industry rate

compared to the general population.

Out of 2904 people in the industry

surveyed, 7.7 per cent had

attempted suicide – more than

double the general population.

“What we are trying to do is

prove is you don’t need to die

young for your art, you don’t need

to be tortured. You don’t need to

be suffering,” Crabtree said.

In New Zealand, he said work

is being done with organisations

including the The New Zealand

Music Foundation having a support

line providing free counselling

for those in the music


An example of huge loss of

talent to the entertainment

industry was American actor,

director and producer Phillip

Seymour Hoffman – who died

from acute mixed drug intoxication,

including heroin at the age

of 46 in 2014.

Following his death it was

discussed in the entertainment

industry what amazing work

could have been produced but

had been stolen away because of

his early death.

“If you put him in a

different movie he suddenly

becomes a different person.

Maybe it is arguable he is the

greatest character actor of our

generation,” he said.

•Living with a Creative

Mind Symposium runs on

July 19 from 7.30-9.30pm

and July 20 from 10am-

5.30pm. The event is free to

attend but registrations are

required. To register email





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