Today, we have a special guest post by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN, author Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. Ms. Raab talks about the affect depression has on our writing. Please leave a comment or question (to be entered in the book giveaway drawing!) and Ms. Raab will be stopping in to reply. Winner will be announced on Friday!
Creativity and Depression
There’s no doubt that the numbness and sense of helplessness which accompanies depression can have a profound affect on the creative impulse. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison of Johns Hopkins who herself battles with bipolar disorder and is the author of the wonderful book, Touched With Fire, says that depression does not necessarily promote artistic talent, but in some people it might enhance or otherwise contribute to creativity.
Historically, many esteemed and creative individuals have been plagued by depression, including Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, William Styron, and more recently the novelist, David Foster Wallace. Earlier this year, a feature in the New York Times Magazine section entitled, “Depression’s Upside,” by Jonah Lehrer offered a fascinating new slant on the subject. A study by a Yale Psychologist, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, showed that those with ruminative tendencies are more likely to become depressed. I found this to be an interesting factoid depicting those prone to this illness.
The article certainly validated some of my own depressive moments. When everything is going extremely well in my personal life, I am more prone to writer’s block. As a journaling advocate and writing instructor who frequently lectures on the healing power of writing, I was thrilled that Lehrer referenced a recent study citing that ‘expressive writing’ leads to a significantly shorter depressive episode. Writers are well-aware of this, but it’s refreshing to see it addressed in this reputable reference, for the masses to read.
Depression is common in the general public and the article states that seven percent of the population will be affected by depression and this number tends to be higher amongst creative types. So fellow writers, don’t worry so much about your depressive moments or disregard your analytical ruminations, because you just never know what the outcome will be! Oh no, a literary drought!
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