I was really surprised by the response to my last post. I really appreciated all of the responses and felt less alone in my momentary darkened slump, however, I did feel that I must have hit a nerve about the lives of writers and how we all seem prone to fits of depression. Then I read several more posts from other writers about the same topic and I thought, “what is this, some sort of dark epidemic?”
No, not really.
My fantabulous father, ever the magnanimous therapist, even in retirement, put his mind to the problem and sent me some words of wisdom that not only made a world of sense, but calmed me right down. I thought I would share them. They came from a post from Elizabeth Moon, a science fiction/fantasy writer, see full post here.
One enduring myth is that creative genius and depression go together, and thus a writer who tampers with endogenous depression is going to damage her creativity. “I don’t want to be drugged into a numb state where I can’t feel anything,” says the suffering writer.
The facts are otherwise. Yes, writers do suffer from depression at a higher rate than the rest of the population. No, it doesn’t do their writing any good. Writers suffer from depression for all the usual reasons (innate biochemical susceptibility, early life experiences, etc.) but they also live lives full of contributing factors. Isolation, introspection, lack of physical exercise, irregular hours, less than perfect diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight–all may cause a depression, or worsen one. So also do financial and professional uncertainty–the lack of control of events which writers experience in every aspect of their work. To these, some writers add alcohol or drug addiction (yup, these do contribute to depression); others are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs which enhance any tendency to depression.
In fact, if you wanted to make a cheery person with no predisposition to depression depressed, you could stick him in front of a typewriter or computer for hours a day–feed him a typical writer’s diet–forbid him to exercise, isolate him from friends, and convince him that his personal worth depended on his “numbers.” Make him live the writer’s life, in other words, and watch him sag.
She goes on the recommend a book on cognitive therapy by David Burn called Feeling Good, which my dad said he used all the time and he highly endorses as well – can’t beat that. Since so many of you shared your feelings with me, I thought i should share this with you. Let’s all make an effort to get away from the isolation this week, maybe get out into the sunlight a bit.
For my part, I’ll be out in the sun plenty today, slathered in SPF 1000, with a whole team of people walking for my son to raise money and
awareness for autism in the 6th annual Ready, Set, Run Event – GO COMPANIONS OF TREVOR! Let me know how you plan on combating your writer’s depression.