The Miracle Workers

When the Russian composer Rachmaninoff was 24, his First Symphony received its premiere in St. Petersburg. He’d written it in response to Tchaikovsky’s death, which apparently he’d taken pretty hard, and when critics panned it (one prominent composer said it would find fans in the inmates of a conservatory in hell, nice) Rachmaninoff went into a deep depression.

Even Tolstoy got in his digs, asking of the symphony, “Is such music needed by anyone?” Ouch. During the next three years Rachmaninoff wrote next to nothing.

It took the help of a hypnotherapist for him to recover, and when he finished his next piece – the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 – he dedicated it to that same Dr. Dahl. (If you’ve ever heard a commercial for classical music’s greatest hits, you know this composition. It’s killer.) Thank you, doctor – I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Rachmaninoff’s Vespers.

Now, I am no Rachmaninoff. But I think it’s impossible to underestimate the impact of good therapy, be it hypno- or any other kind, on the creative process. And psychotropic drugs, too. Me likey.

Right now, I feel like I’m out of my rut and racing to get this draft down while I feel good. And for sure I’ll be thanking a certain social worker in my acknowledgments, someday.


  • Wonderful insight, Kirstin. Your insight and willingness to talk about your creative process does much to shed light on mental health and the ability to produce good work. It’s brave and helpful. I commend you.

  • Kirstin Butler wrote:

    Manpriya, what a lovely comment; thank you for leaving it! I think it’s important for creators to share the hard parts of their process, too.

    I really appreciate your supportive words.

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