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Writers and Depression – part 1

April 3rd, 2013

So you fancy full-time writing as a career. Great! But, before you set off on this path, it’s useful to know some of the pitfalls that may befall you along the way. Did you know, for example, that many writers suffer from depression? Strange but true! Now, this may be because creative writing and the arts in general attract depressed people who use it as an outlet for their suffering. And, research shows that it’s a very good form of therapy.

Or it could be because some writers believe that depression is a pre-requisite for being a great writer. After all, there’s a list as long as your arm of successful authors who’ve suffered from depression, including Douglas Adams (‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’), Hans Christian Anderson (‘The Snow Queen’), William Blake (‘The Tyger’), Agatha Christie (‘Murder on the Orient Express’), Ernest Hemmingway (‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’), Edgar Allen Poe (‘The Raven’), and the list goes on and on!

Or it may be that writing encourages normally happy individuals into depression. This seems unbelievable, but there are a number of factors associated with writing that can affect your happiness, including:

– Financial uncertainty
– lack of exercise
– isolation
– irregular hours

In fact, Elizabeth Moon states in her article ‘The Writer and Depression that ‘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.’

Unfortunately, once you start to feel depressed, it can impact on your ability to concentrate, which will affect your ‘numbers’ or writing productivity, which can lead to feelings of self-doubt and a drop in confidence levels, which feed the depression more. Not a good place to be! But, there’s always a solution, and next week we’ll look at what you can do to help yourself avoid this situation.

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