Friday, April 23, 2010

Depression's Upside

I wanted to share a really fascinating, balanced article on some of the latest research on the benefits of depression. (New York Times - Depression's Upside)

It's a looooong article, but worth it. I was especially fascinated by explanations of the reasons for the link between creativity and depression.

Here's an interesting tidbit that applies specifically to writerly types . . .

And then there’s the virtue of self-loathing, which is one of the symptoms of depression. When people are stuck in the ruminative spiral, their achievements become invisible; the mind is only interested in what has gone wrong. While this condition is typically linked to withdrawal and silence -- people become unwilling to communicate -- there’s some suggestive evidence that states of unhappiness can actually improve our expressive abilities. Forgas said he has found that sadness correlates with clearer and more compelling sentences, and that negative moods “promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style.” Because we’re more critical of what we’re writing, we produce more refined prose, the sentences polished by our angst. As Roland Barthes observed, “A creative writer is one for whom writing is a problem.”

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this good info on depression, Sharon. As writers, I think we all suffer setbacks and self-doubt from time to time. I came to realze that meltdowns are just part of the writing process. Although distressing at the time, these bouts actually help me improve by making me focus on how, what and why I write.

    Thanks for the link!

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  2. If you only saw the smile faces, bobbing bluebirds, pretty skies, I would think picture books for children would be a good calling. The stories that have me spellbound have characters that I can relate to, and they are the most flawed, unhappy bastards that can be. In order to find that balance so you don't shift your depression to the reader, creating the perfect HEA or HFN ending, you might as well take the half empty cup and use every drop.

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  3. Thanks so much for posting this. Perfect timing and so in tune with what writers deal with.

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  4. Thanks for your comments, guys, and glad you found the post interesting.

    I was deep in my first real depression when I came up with the idea and wrote a draft for my first novel. At the time, I remember working on it was the only thing that made day-to-day life tolerable -- sort of like therapy. I had to completely rewrite that first draft, because I later saw I had written a heroine who often had to be taken care of by her friends (imagine!).

    But difficult as that period of depression was, I credit it with helping to create the focus I needed to develop the idea.

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  5. Lordy. I *do* get bonus points for the neuroses? Who knew.

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  6. This is precisely why I refuse to be medicated. It would take the edge off. Ha! Take that, pharmacy giants!

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  7. Great post! Sometimes I think depression and writing go hand in hand.

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