Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?


Being a creative writer seems to me to be one of the weirdest professions on the planet.

Catering to imaginary characters who may seem more real than the folks next door can bring certain challenges.

Many writers have faced suffering so debilitating they wanted to die—some have clung to suicide as their only solution

Does it have to be this way?

Why would creating stories be so rife with mental and emotional distress?

Elizabeth Gilbert is an author who has discovered a path around the demons, shared some insights into the common malady, and given us a creative solution to the problems of Creativity.

If you are a writer, or know one, and you watch the video below, it would be wonderful if you shared your thoughts and feelings in our Comments


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15 responses to “Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

  1. Catana January 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I don’t want to make any assumptions about her point of view since I didn’t watch the video. Sorry, but I hate watching videos to listen to something that I could read in a quarter of the time. But I’m interpreting what you said as meaning that creativity causes mental problems. In fact, it’s often the other way around. Writing or other creativity is sometimes what keeps people alive in spite of their suffering. There’s plenty of evidence for this in biolgraphies, autobiographies, interviews, and other sources.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      Yes, there is evidence for the healing qualities of creativity.

      There are also plenty of cases of those creative souls who are suffering with their gift

      I truly don’t think the experience of watching Elizabeth’s video could be adequately summed up in mere words on a page………

      Like

  2. Mbugua Kamau January 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Wow! One of the best talks I’ve seen on TED! I haven’t read Eat Pray Love. But my wife read the book and watched the movie (I saw parts) and loved it. I agree that creativity comes from someplace else. I think we are like radios and creative types tune fleetingly to the station of creation or being and the fleeting nature of this connection is most maddening.
    I like Hemingway alot and I’m always amazed that somebody like him, who had it all, got up one morning and took his own life. At that point in his life he could not tune in to the station of creation, and life was not worth living.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Yes, Mbugua, Elizabeth’s video is truly inspiring—I watch a lot of Ted Talks and this video is my all-time favorite :-)

      Thanks for bringing up the tragic situation of Hemingway’s physical ending

      As Elizabeth says so eloquently, far too many creative folk end their own life………

      Like

  3. grahamwhittaker January 10, 2012 at 3:31 am

    I watched twice trying to find some fault. I cannot. I am manic-depressive (no NOT bi-polar)- that is a catch-all. I am not a writer because I am MD, and not and MD because I am a writer. One of the most clichéd of all interview questions seems to be “How do you write?” A bit like saying “how do you eat? Or sleep, or ..” It has no meaning as a question. Often with a novel I forget about chronology, often writing the end, or the middle or even just a phrase that entered through the ether, and then work both ends until they are sewn together. Characters are not given words to speak, they speak their own. Carefully plotted storyboards end up making their own arrangements and speaking to their own gods (small g). Heroes become villains, or die, crooked cops become nice guys. Characters, at first empathetic become figures of disgust. The STORY etches itself. Yet I note (as Elizabeth notes) that ALL my fiction, over 40 years boils down to fear. Fear Kills, says Andy in my new book. Fear is the glue that holds society together, and whether they know it or not, that is the theme underlying every novelists work. I am working right now with fear as the motivator, the cattle prod. http://grahamwhittaker.com/2011/12/30/the-girl-from-kosovo/ is now 40,000 words and being written absolutely in the public eye, and it scares me. A novel, read in a day can take months to write, and a year before it makes use of a dead tree. And in a world of instant communication where everything is demanded for free, the average novelist if lucky makes $10,000 a year in income. Writers are my heroes, because they live with fear and insecurity and instability, It is however,quite wrong to assume that creative people are more prone to self-harm or misery than anyone else. I know of no statistics to prove that premise. In the vernacular, Elizabeth Gilbert rocks!

    Like

  4. Alexander M Zoltai January 10, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Graham,

    Thank you for your fascinating comment :-)

    Like

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  8. technospiritualist September 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

    As a writer, I’ve watched this several times in amazement. It’s a great speech in the general sense of discussing creativity and how we can consider that process of creation. For me, however, it’s had a more profound effect.
    To put it bluntly, I often suffer from low self-esteem, and I find myself doubting my abilities as a writer/father/husband and so forth. Hearing Elizabeth talk about putting the genius outside of yourself is something I need to seriously consider. It’s compatable with my religious views, and may give me the empowerment needed to lead the creative life I want. If nothing else, it might allow me to be happier with that life regardless of its outcome.
    To Elizabeth Gilbert, I say “Thank You!”

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai September 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      imho, there is no doubt that creativity is a spiritual phenomenon

      So glad you found the video so helpful :-)

      Like

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