Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Rules" of Engagement

Like many writers, I have common enemies I regularly engage in combat with. More often than not they’re Depression and Envy.

Oh, no, you may be thinking as you roll your eyes. Not another whiny, woe-is-me, I’m-a-failure-as-a-writer self-pitying rant.

It’s okay. Really. Because that’s not what this post is about.

What I want to explore is acknowledging such feelings without letting them control us and even look at how they can affect us in a positive manner.

Why are writers (and other creative types) more prone to major depression and/or bipolar disorder?  This article, originally published in Psychology Today (April 1987) explores the correlation between major depression/bipolar disorder and creativity, especially when it comes to writers.

Many writers living with depression or bipolar disorder live in silence, believing they’ll be ostracized by their friends, family, perhaps even readers. But they should realize they’re not alone. Well-known writers who dealt with or are believed to have dealt with depression or bipolar disorder include Sylvia Path, Virginia Woolf, Jack London, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, among others.

What’s the point of my post? This. Those of us who deal with depression or bipolar disorder need to acknowledge this is who we are. Too often we’re expected to curtail our emotions. Get a rejection letter? Don’t be upset or depressed. Friend land an agent and a three-book deal while you’re only garnering rejection slips? Don’t be envious.

But while taking the higher road is a noble idea, it’s not always realistic. Writers run the gamut of emotions from euphoric to depressive. We’re passionate about what we write, it’s who we are. And so we’re probably going to have these strong emotions which can affect how we react to situations, depending on our circumstances.

It’s when we allow jealousy and depression to rule us that we lose sight of who we are as writers, as creative people.

I may complain on Twitter about feeling like a writing failure. But those who know me know there’s one adage I always adhere to:


No matter what, I fight back. Friend who got that three-book deal? Sure, I’ll admit to being envious. But don’t think for one moment I’m not happy for her. My jealousy is merely self-criticism. In other words, a part of me faults myself for not submitting work that could possibly lead to a similar deal. But instead of admitting that initially, I allowed envy to alter my perception.

What’s so positive about jealousy and depression? For me, they drive me to work harder to improve my writing. Complacency isn’t allowed. They also force me to acknowledge I’m not perfect and I’ll have those moments of negative thinking.

Am I alone? I don’t think so. But perhaps it’s easier for people to deny the truth about themselves rather than admit to what are perceived by many as faults.

Faults or merely human nature? Depends on your POV. But I urge you to keep an open mind even if you don’t believe you have a jealous bone in your body. :-)

1 comment:

Sara-Jayne Townsend said...

Great post, Pamela

I think jealousy human nature. Whenever a fellow writer excitedly announces their three-book deal, or whatever, I join in congratulating them, but also some part of me has the urge to stab them repeatedly with a fork.

You just have to make sure you don't vocalise that thought at the time...