On Writing and Depression: My Creative Down-swings

Jason Arnopp @JasonArnopp  (Author, scriptwriter. Doctor Who, Sarah Jane, Friday 13th) is working on a book regarding professional (Fiction) writers and Depression. He asked me to contribute. This is what I had to say…

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On Writing & Depression: Creative Down-swings

A well-meaning new-found long-lost relative decided to comment on my NaNoWriMo 2011 Facebook entry referring to my struggles to participate because of Major Depression: “truth is I’m strategic…” she wrote. “…the goal is achievable you have to trust yourself to make it happen.” Her sentiments are typical of the simple-minded inspiration porn that I am forced to put up with routinely. My response is always that I do what I can, when I can, but unfortunately more often than not it means struggling immensely to do not very much at all. I give myself pep talks and formulate strategies to try and be productive to no avail.

The greatest irony for me as a writer living with Depression has always been that I get my best ideas and am the most prolific when in a severe down-swing. I find that writing fiction, even Harry Potter fan fiction, is therapeutic in a way that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has never been for me. I even managed to put this into one of my stories with a fan fiction-writing protagonist who proposed that “sometimes fiction serves a purpose in enabling people to live out their fantasies, purge their own demons or perhaps set a standard for themselves. It was only when people confused fantasy with reality that there was a problem.”Self-insertion? I won’t deny it. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself and my illness through writing and making use of my own lived experience (especially post-diagnosis in 2009). This in turn informs others including those who live with it – something still sorely needed to combat the stigma of mental illness. I would also agree that I lose myself in the gloriousness of creation process. This is even more pronounced during manic cycles of insomnia. Perhaps that’s why I have so many epic tales that remain unfinished after starting them nearly a decade ago and have failed to live up to the potential I’ve been told that I have. Depression has impacted every aspect of my life for good or ill, and my interests and ambitions as a professional writer are no exception.

Lisa J. Ellwood

@CreativeCrip (Social Justice, Mental Illness, Disability)

https://thecreativecrip.wordpress.com/

@IconicImagery (Professional Writing & Communications account)

http://iconic-imagery.co.uk/

http://iconicimagery.wordpress.com/

http://www.fanfiction.net/u/598860/NativeMoon (Fan Fiction Writing)

Related Articles:

#NaNoWriMo 2011 (#disability #spoonie #mentalhealth) – #amwriting (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

#NaNoWriMo – Day 2: Not #fitforwork or anything else… (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

@CreativeCrip in the media: #xmasathome #nyeathome interview GRAZIA Australia (thecreativecrip.wordpress.com

10 thoughts on “On Writing and Depression: My Creative Down-swings

  1. When I write the mental pain abaits somewhat and I judge myself less. It’s my own self criticism and judgement that haunts me.
    Great post btw, will reblogg.

  2. Pingback: Writing: I AM a Writer…Conclusion | Live.Free.Be.Free

  3. I agree. Isn’t the “simple minded inspiration” stuff the most off putting words one can fling to someone who’s depressed?
    The irony, I’ve discovered, is that this kind of “inspiration” is grounded on ideas that DO help depressed people, but when everyone just focuses on the “nicey nicey inspiration” aspect of it, they come out patronising and wrong.
    Oh, and CBT SUCKS. There. I said it.

  4. ‘Simple-minded inspiration porn’.
    Love it.

    I too struggle to maintain anything that looks vaguely like a routine writing plan; some days are simply ‘not going to happen’ days. It can last a week or more. My mental *illness* (clue in the word!) simply will not allow it.

    And, like you, I find writing fiction – in which I invariably put myself – far better therapy for coping with everyday life than CBT or anything of that ilk.
    Writers with mental health problems accept all this, I think, though they may struggle against it; but the writers of trite ‘inspirational porn’ simply do not have a clue.

    My teeth are worn away with the gnashing at such uninspirational drivel.

    Good article. I hope your good days start to outnumber the unproductive ones at some point.

    Best regards

    Roger

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