The Dark Side of Creativity

dear brainThis week’s topic is “into the dark.” Each one of us is blogging about the moments when we thought we might pack away our notebooks and laptops and quit writing altogether. For me, I can’t identify a single, particular moment when I felt that way. Instead, I can identify a destructive force that both fuels and hinders my writing. It’s depression.

I’m not unique in this respect. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that 14.8 million Americans suffer from depression. So do some of the most creative people I know. According to Psychology Today, “Creative people have characteristics that make them more vulnerable.” I don’t know about the science of it, but I do know that I’ve always been “sensitive.”

My moods would get in the way of my writing if I let them. If I gave in to the demon, I’d be lying on the couch with Izzy, the world’s laziest hound dog, seven nights a week. But I’ve learned to ignore the downward pull and sit down with my laptop anyway. Because, for me, every word I write is a way of letting depression know that IT’S NOT WINNING. Every page and paragraph I edit is a victory against the neuro-chemical war in my head.

I like to think, too, that the struggle makes me stronger. And that the pain, when transferred to the page, loses just a little of its power.

Image credit: WearEverYouAre

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Susan Gloss is the author of the novel VINTAGE (William Morrow/HarperCollins, March 2014). When she's not writing, toddler wrangling, or working as an attorney, she blogs at Glossing Over It and curates an online vintage store, Cleverly Curated.

12 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Creativity

  1. Susan said:
    ““Creative people have characteristics that make them more vulnerable.” I don’t know about the science of it, but I do know that I’ve always been “sensitive.””

    Could it be we live inside our heads? Maybe we listen to our inner voice more than others, and the general definition of probability makes the likelihood of believing and acting out what we hear much greater. Training our minds to stay positive, to think positive is harder than training muscles to run faster. Kudos to you for staying strong. Keep typing!

  2. Writing is therapeutic for sure. I have fought my own battles and found that writing is the best medicine.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Yes, everyone’s got battles to fight. Some harder than others, and mine is not the worst, by far. But I hope that by talking about my struggles other people will feel less alone.

  3. I read once that creativity is a form of mental illness, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. What they meant was, it’s an indicator that creative people’s minds don’t necessarily function in the same way most people’s minds do, and I think along with the benefits of that come the downsides—the sensitivity, the depression. You’re right that it’s a struggle. I love that you can look at it like that and charge ahead to victory.

  4. We are so much alike in this, Susan! I admire the force of will that gets you writing despite how you feel. The world is better for it because we have your novel(s)!

    • Thanks, Lisa. You know, I wrote this post in a dark moment and, at the last minute, though about pulling it and writing about something less… uh, dark? But I decided I had to post what was true.

  5. Writers have a far higher depression statistic than the average – it’s more than double, if I remember correctly. I struggle with it myself, so I feel your pain (literally … and pun intended). I’m glad you find ways to combat it and to focus through and keep writing. Hopefully you have close writing friends (and I know you have deb sisters!) to help, too.

  6. So glad you have writing! I have fought in the past with depression, too, and only when I work on all four cylinders does it not get to me. Exercise, writing, connection and honesty – it’s all so good! Oh, and for me, church. That was a game changer for me. Many of my other artist friends find yoga or meditation their church. It’s the whole “letting go” of what I can’t control. I so enjoy your posts!

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