Writers are Depressives. Who knew?

January 3, 2011 § 6 Comments

An article in the Guardian newspaper recently revealed that writing is one of the top professions in which people are most likely to be depressed.

Hm.

Is it because writers are pretty much obliged to be sensitive, deep-thinking sorts of people, ridden with (and preoccupied by) emotional truth, obsessively picking apart everything that happens around them to understand its underlying meaning?

Yes. I would say that is exactly the problem.

Can you be a writer without having most of those characteristics/bad habits?

No. Not really.

So far, so good. What else does the article tell us?

“You spend long hours sitting on your own.”

Yep, true.

“Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable.”

A certain amount? I’d say a truckload.

“Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly.”

Oh god, yes.

“Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more.”

Arrrgh.

“It has always been an insecure profession, and now advances are spiralling downwards and a lot of midlist authors have been dropped by their publishers.”

Are you trying to make me depressed?

The article kindly points out to us how many famous writers of the past ended by committing suicide. Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton.

Alright, stop. I’m depressed. You’ve won. STOP HURTING ME.

Featured Novelist says:

“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.”

Oh god. I’m aiming to finish the first draft of my first complete novel around my next birthday. I’ll be looking forward to this part. Keep me away from bridges and tall buildings as I turn twenty-seven.

All of that may be enough to send any new novelist reaching for their daggers and cyanide, but hey, at least we have learned something from this process.

Rule One: Do not become a writer.

Rule Two: If Rule One doesn’t work out for you, don’t aim for – or subsequently accept – a publishing deal.

Rule Three: If you can’t manage that either, don’t ever read your reviews on Amazon. In fact, don’t ever read your reviews anywhere.

Failing all of the above, there are two options open to you.

Option one: Follow the example of Elliot Richards: the most emotionally sensitive man in the world.

I never wipe my tears away. I’m not ashamed of them. I wear them proudly, like small, wet, salty badges of emotional truth.”

If you’d like to survive long enough to actually complete your novel, I’d probably recommend the Papa Roach alternative.

“Don’t fight it, or deny it, invite it…

Cause when it feels like a kick in the teeth, I can take it….”

You’ll have hide like a rhinoceros by the time you’re done. Believe it.

And you’ll need it.

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§ 6 Responses to Writers are Depressives. Who knew?

  • timkeen40 says:

    Everything in the article is somehow familiar. As a writer of fiction myself, I do find a certain (truckload) amount of introspective thought.

    Great post! Thanks!

    Tim

  • timkeen40 says:

    I meant that a certain amount of instrospective thought is necessary. Sorry about that.

    Tim

  • I also find that to be a really effective writer – particularly of humor – one often (certainly not always) has to be on the “outside”, so to speak. A person can’t effectively examine something when he or she is a part of it, there has to be that vantage that comes from distance. As such, writers may have friends, lovers, etc, but are frequently not, nor will ever be, “one of the gang”.

    • Charlotte says:

      An interesting and valid point. Thanks for that – I suddenly feel justified for having always been approximately three-quarters loner (not 100% loner because one cannot write in a closed box. Unfortunately. Those Rapunzel towers always appealed to me somehow).

      About humour – yes. I suppose it’s difficult to be ‘one of the gang’ if one is a committed satirist, because the ‘gang’ usually develops a whole slew of absurdities, peculiarities and quirks which are just begging to be laughed at. Can’t be part of the gang if you’re laughing up your sleeve half the time.

      It’s almost a pity that satire is so very, very entertaining. Cannot… resist…

  • DJE says:

    …and grey hair too – and wrinkles, and a reputation for being slightly eccentric? At last, all is explained!

    Nice one!

    Thanks Charlie 8o)

    D
    xxx

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