I originally wrote this post while participating in a group blog, The Great Noveling Adventure, that is no longer active. It was first published on March 9, 2014.
I still find it very relevant to me. Maybe you will, too.
In a very nebulous, non-scientific, late-at-night-inside-my-head-before-I-fall-asleep way, I have wondered about the connection between artistic talent and depressive temperament.
Many writers and artists I know, including myself, struggle with depression in one form or another.
Is it because we are more emotionally sensitive to the world at large? Is it because as the saying goes, writing is easy, all you have to do is open a vein and bleed?
I came across two pieces on the web this week that added some food for thought to this question.
- This first piece I heard on Fresh Air while driving in my car. It’s a fascinating interview on NPR of Alexander Payne, the director of “Nebraska”. At one point he discussed how all great actors have ready access to their emotions at any time. What he said next was such an, “Ah ha!” moment for me, I sat in my driveway for ten minutes in my car mulling it over after the interview ended.
And that’s why life is often so difficult for them because they can’t keep their emotions tamped down, as like…as you and I can. So then if you can put an oil pump on that spurting oil well of emotion, then you can be a professional actor…
It’s beautiful to see how fully they wish to give of themselves. And I’ve always been confused by people saying of a certain actor’s performance, oh, it’s so brave. What a brave performance. What I think, that’s what they’re there to do, they’re there to do anything. It’s not brave. I think it’s the job. And it also should be coming from an attitude of fun and playfulness, and isn’t it delightful to be doing this and to be expressing these emotions and going deeply, deeply into who we are. And showing those of us who have less ready access to our emotions, and often have to pay people to help us get in touch with our emotions, to show us what’s available, what’s beneath the surface. It’s beautiful what they do.
I loved this so much. It made absolute sense to me. How similar is that to a writer connecting to the emotional truth of a scene? Of a character?
- This second piece was written by one of my favorite YA authors, Libba Bray. She recently posted this deeply personal look at her own struggle with depression on her blog, entitled Miles and Miles of No-Man’s Land. I would strongly encourage you to take a moment to hop on over and bookmark this page. You will want to read this over and over again.
She describes depression as I’ve experienced so well. You can have a good moment and still be depressed. You can laugh at a joke, make it through a day okay and still be on the verge of losing it.
As she describes it:
There is an undertow to depression. It doesn’t take you all at once. It leaves you with some false sense that you are coping. That you are in control. That you have the shore still well in sight, until, at some point, you raise your head to find yourself all alone, battered by rough seas with absolutely no idea which way you should swim.
I was moved by Bray’s words. She mentions a shame that comes with depression that makes it hard to talk about sometimes because it’s an invisible disease; you can’t see the wound it leaves like a broken limb. The gaping hole we may feel inside isn’t obvious to others around us. This is why it’s even more important to know that you are not alone.
So what are your thoughts on the creative soul and depression? Do these thoughts resonate with you?