“You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction if you are not depressed.” ~Kurt Vonnegut Jr
We all know the old stereotypes of the tortured artist, the alcoholic writer. They play into the belief that artistic creative types seem to be more depressed or are more susceptible to mental illness than the average person.
Those old stereotypes may not have been too far off from many famous authors, poets and painters. When you think of Hemingway, Poe, Keats, Proust and Van Gogh, you don’t always think of their genius. More often than not you also think about their lives and how each one obviously suffered from some mental illness or depression. it almost makes depression seem glamorous, yet it isn’t glamorous to the person that suffers from it.
I know from experience.
I am not ashamed say that on occasion I suffer from depression. Okay…more often than that. It is something that has plagued me for quite a long time. As long as I can remember, I never understood it. When I was a teenager I would use my depressed state and write some of the best stories and poetry. It would be my muse. That bred the idea that my muse had to be depressed as well.
“Writing is one of the top ten professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression, with men particularly at risk from the illness” ~ health.com.
They say that writing is a solitary profession and begs for a dedicated writer to be alone most of the time. Being alone gives the writer more focus. Being alone can also be a breeding ground for depression in a writer or anyone. I spent a lot of time alone and more often than not, that led to negative thoughts penetrating my concentration and almost caused me to give up writing.
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” ~Edgar Allan Poe
Growing up Edgar Allan Poe was a poet and writer that I could relate to. Not just because of his style. It was because he was so dark and gloomy. His depression seeped through the pages of his stories and leaked into mine. I knew his torment and I knew his pain. I experienced the intense loneliness in a packed household and I knew how that affected me. Those stints of depression are fewer now but can still have the same debilitating affect on me.
"Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.” ~Simon Brett
I know that right after I finish a novel or short story, I go from the relief and excitement that comes from completing the novel to a deep depression. This depression always comes from the negative thoughts that plague me like: Will people like my book? Will I get a ton of negative reviews? Will it even get published?
Nothing is worse than thinking the novel that you just spent the better part of a year working on is hated by all. Forget sells…I just hope people will read it and love it the way that I do.
Sometimes my depression gets so bad that I cannot write. The guilt for not being able to be creative or to produce makes me more depressed.
I know that it confuses my family. They don’t understand how I can get so depressed once the book is finished. They assume that I would be very happy about finishing a novel that has stressed me for months.
“So writers are prone to depression, which shouldn't surprise anyone. What should surprise even writers is the affection we have for depression...the belief that being miserable gives us some mystical insight into creativity, and that if we weren't depressed, we either could not write, or we could write only Pollyannaish drivel.” ~www.elizabethmoon.com
This I believe has caused me to stay in my depressions longer or do nothing to help them. I always felt that my pessimism and my melancholy was the basis of my creativity and so to get rid of that would mean the end of my writing career which was one of the few things that actually brought me joy.
Though I am still working through my depression episode and look at past writers that have not overcome and hope that there is hope for me.