Writing, Depression, Sanity, and the EMS Cat

Posted: April 3, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do all writers lose their minds?  Surely not, but if such a high number of the famous ones go mad, I’m guessing that an even higher percentage of the lesser known writers tinker in madness.

Way before I even dreamed of writing professionally I had a certain fascination with the lunacy of the world’s great writers.  Talents like Petronius, Pound, Hemingway, and Nietzsche, who, for valid reasons or not, descended into madness, shortening their lives and their portfolios, forever robbing the world of what might have been.

Woolf.  Mayakofsky, Pavese.  Berryman.

It’s no secret that writers are susceptible to severe depression.  There are even surveys and studies that say so –

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/dec/13/writers-depression-top-10-risk

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/writing-depression.html

Hans Christian Andersen. Truman Capote. Charles Dickens. Henry James.

Does one need to be depressed to be a writer, or does writing merely lead one into depression?

Celan.  Sexton.  Plath.  Brautigan.

In the publishing world of today, writer’s often find themselves spending more time in selling themselves to the public than they do in producing written material.  Blogging, queries, synopses, bios, blogging, queries, synopses, bios. Rejection, rejection, rejection.  All of this leads to more self-evaluation than is necessary for most people.  It is easy to see how one’s self-image gets tanked through the 21st century publishing process.

This leads me to believe that the problem writers face with depression may be greater than ever before.  Writers of past centuries were not nearly as exposed to criticism and rejection as the writers of today.

Gray.  Wallace.  Thompson.  Kane.

It is important to keep your perspective as a writer.  It is important to keep your perspective as a human being.  You are just one tiny element in a grandiose world of mortal objects.  We want to feel important, yet what we do is really not all that important, except to those that are closest to us while we’re here.

Sometimes, for perspective, I like to stop what I’m doing and spend a moment with one of my pets.

Image

Ashes, the EMS Cat, at age one.

Ashes doesn’t care if I get published.  She doesn’t care what I say as long as I’m not yelling at her.  She just wants me to feed her and stroke her fur once in a while… and she wants to be able to crap in a clean box of litter, too.

Sigh.

I’m still sane, at least for the moment.

Stay sane, writers.

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Comments
  1. LOL, that was a great post. Yes, you do have to be crazy to write and if you’re not before you start, you soon will be. These days I just embrace the crazy and it’s all good.

    • I really like what you wrote. I keep thinking about these things all the time. After reading some books I get deeper and deeper into this subject, and I wonder if sanity exists at all ? Maybe it’s just that artists are more sensitive and experience everything ‘more’. It’s hard for me to write what I think in a comment. It comes easier when I write poems or when I talk to sb in person. Anyway, your point of view is very interesting and I enjoyed reading your text. Have a nice day/ nigt 😉

  2. As a side, I’ve also discovered why so many are raging alcoholics……nothing like a quick buzz to open a window of perspective when you’re stuck…..

  3. mfitz says:

    This is great, love the way you lay this out with the breaking up of the litany of those that went mad, and your method for avoiding madness is a heck of a lot better than drinking. Purrs are soothing…:)

  4. Xivist says:

    I’m mad. Insanely.

  5. Arianna Editrix says:

    So, if cats keep you from going crazy, then the more cats you have the crazier you are? Must be why the trope of the crazy cat lady is so prevalent? Yes, I have EMS cats, I write, and um, yep, totally whacko! 😉

  6. Exquisite! We are all a little mad I suppose… Writers just know how to articulate it!

  7. dcomeaux says:

    So, that’s why I’m so craaaazy. Hmm . . . .

  8. Matt Harris says:

    crazy is as crazy does
    you gotta be mad to write – its an insane thing to do – fill blank pages with scribbling? for money? sounds totally wack-a-do to me

  9. Susan Ozmore says:

    Yep! I lost both of my dogs this past year and haven’t written a real blog post for my main blog since. But, I started one yesterday that looks promising and this lets me know It’s not just me. Thanks for liking my little book review. I’m glad I found your blog!

  10. lcsoup says:

    Great topic! I love how you talk about the importance of perspective and not letting the ranking get to You.

  11. valleygrail says:

    Such a complex issue. Every word that makes it from my brain, down my arms and out my fingertips to paper, or screen, is a creative act. And then I need to become a salesman, and hawk my creation? No can do! But, I would like my words to last. Nope, still can’t abide the anxiety selling causes. This conflict between the right and left sides of my brain is depressing! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…Yes, I get it! Good post!

  12. Joseph Nebus says:

    For what it’s worth, in the mathematics department there’s folklore that logicians are especially prone to suicide. I’m not confident that the actuaries would agree with this, but, it’s used as the source of some gallows humor as people study serious mathematical logic.

  13. Great post, and what has been niggling me these last few days, as I try not to obsess over rankings. “It is important to keep your perspective as a human being…” Yes. Genuine connection, not rankings, is why I write, though I need reminding myself (your post has cemented that).
    In the meantime, if talking to my parsley and basil seedlings is an early warning sign I’m on the way outa my head…I might be there 🙂

  14. Enjoy the cat more! Great blog.

  15. naemarsaed says:

    Thanks for stopping by my site bro. I’ll be having a look at your site when a bit fresher haha 🙂

  16. Sargasm says:

    I do find that writing is becoming one of my most enjoyable pastimes. When I don’t have time to blog I feel anxious. A classically trained artist that I know told me that very few people have the capacity for self expression that people who are drawn to the arts have. Wonder if this is common knowledge?

  17. I don’t know if there is a causality here. Most people just get on with their lives, they don’t feel a need to do art. Those who make the time to do something different are in some ways different, they step outside of the norm, and that means they step outside the normal ways of vehaving which makes them more isolated, so more vulnerable to all sorts of things, mental illness amongst them. There is also a myth that alcohol and writing are linked, but it seems that most people turn to booze or drugs when the muse has left them, so is an alternative to creativity, not part of it.

  18. johnlmalone says:

    it is always good to spend time with your pets

  19. onewithclay says:

    Excellent breakdowns breakdown and message. It’d be interesting to see which of the creative-depressives were catless and which not. Your cat sounds like a great passive savior.

  20. sued51 says:

    I LOVED this post, Eric! And many writers loved cats: Hemingway, T.S. Elliot…

  21. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Excellent post, awareness is all 🙂 🙂 🙂

  22. Mary Rowen says:

    So true! thanks for this post. Needed it today!!

  23. We’re all mad in here. Thanks for the post. You’re a great find.

  24. The realization that we are all nuts is okays long as you surround yourself with wrenches. I keep a strong right sizing group around all the time. Whether it be other writers, folks in recovery or my spiritual friends, they all have my permission to tighten me up when I get to caught up in me.
    Thanks for stopping by 7evil dwarves. Keep up the good work. remember there is a wrench to fit every nut.

  25. Doctor Zest says:

    Okay, okay, okay, oooooooooooookay! I admit it. I WAS depressed. [Please do not read further if you are close to depression as this will activate you. Not kidding, PLEASE do not read past this…just go look at something pretty and tell yourself…”I WILL see the sunshine again!” Not kidding. It helps. And, oh, Honey, you WILL. This will pass. Get good help. Hang in. You are not alone. Bye.
    ~~~

    It was absolutely fucking gruesome. I could SEE the black cloud in front of my eyes…it was not an illusion, severe depression is like a hallucinogen and you see differently – unfortunately it is always a bad trip, duders and dudettes. Really Bad. In my worst moment I TRULY understood why the padded cell came into being…because you would absolutely consider it absolutely sane to run as fast as you could across the room and absolutely try to bash your open open on a concrete wall. It would be the sane thing to do. Absolutely. [I think crash test dummies originated with the companies that made the padding for these cells: ‘How thick do you think? Run ’em into it! oops….too thin…let’s try six inches!’]

    I look back, and realize that for me (get that? for ME) writing did not drive me to depression…just the opposite…it rescued me. My suspicion is that Poe (did you forget Eddie?) and Ernie and Freddy [Eddie, Ernie and Freddy are you kidding, DZ? hahaha] wrote for RELIEF. Distraction. A journey AWAY from the dreaded BC that hovered in front of their forehead. Welcome, oh, so welcome, Relief, I think they thought: ‘Just for a while…I can forget about making a door in the back wall with my head. Put the pencil on the paper and WRITE you sonofabitch!’

    Well, that is my .o2, Dear Eric.
    Thanks for the lead.
    DZ

  26. daylerogers says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I couldn’t help but smile at this–writers, I think, are just more aware of their tenuous hold on life. You hit it on the head–perspective matters. It can change everything.

  27. Robert Medak says:

    I always thought one had to be neurotic to become a writer.

  28. Hehehehe….I like the Ashes…Purrfect post..Oh, and thanks for liking us 🙂 Pawkisses, Little Binky and Granny 🙂

  29. bkolisha says:

    Thanks for following my blog. It’s been really encouraging that people are stopping to read. It’s been a long, dark month for me and it really lifted my spirits to read your post. I find for myself that I write when I’m going crazy, which usually means I’m really depressed or really elated. It was nice to know someone else watches their pets. Mine become a life lesson many times. I will try to post one of those soon. Also, noticed the fire rescue hat. Are you a firefighter? My brother is a RN/Paramedic and I am a retired labor and delivery nurse, but I stay at home with my mother who is paralyzed on the right side with a stroke since 2004 and two grandchildren. Grandchildren are like pets…they say the funniest things and make me laugh and cry at the same time.
    A recent death in our family gave our three-year old grandson pause to say, papa, go to heaben and we are sad. Yes, I said. He must have heard me praying and expressed exasperatedly, “What are we gonna do?, What are we gonna do now, Papa?” I cried. He grabbed my hand and as we went up the stairs out of Papa’s house, he said, “you have a nice butt, and pat me on my booty”. I just laughed. They are precious!
    Thanks again, for visiting and I look forward to visiting your site. Keep writing, stay crazy and tell the world about the ride!

  30. Here here. It is difficult when you live in your head so often, but a rumbling purr always brings me back to the present.

  31. You make me recall the loneliness I warned a son of mine, an artist. On the hard artistic decisions, there’s no one can help directly. He seemed willing to accept that, even embrace it. Possibly because Aspergers is in our genetics. In The Music Teacher, M. Dalleyrac tells a student, “On the stage, one is alone. You will learn to value the loneliness, as I do.”

  32. There’s a song, “Dry Run Creek”, about a battle fought a week after Lee’s surrender at Appomatox, with heavy casualties on both sides. I sing it, but I don’t know whether it’s fiction or history, nor where Dry Run Creek is. It’s exceptionally good musically, and I program it occasionally. Any light you could shed, Eric?

  33. It’s tough all right: far more attention available than ever before, yet FAR more competition. I’ve only read this piece of yours so far, but I like what I see.Thanks.

  34. aprilesutton says:

    Not writing makes you crazier.

  35. N. says:

    Great post. I was recently reading a book called “Poets on Prozac” that tackles this subject. I didn’t get to finish it, as it was a library book, but I plan on checking it out again as it was very interesting. You may like it too.

    Also, I love your cat. 🙂 Cats are a great comfort, and I’d have one myself if my husband wasn’t allergic. Alas I settle for birds and fish. 😀

  36. I made if through my rough draft without going crazy, but I think the revision process has made be bipolar. One day I can be full of confidence, the next I have doubts that anyone will want to read what I’ve written. The good days do outnumber the bad though, guess I should count myself lucky for that.

  37. animallogic says:

    Hey this is spot on; nice one X

  38. Gary Wellings alias Sunburst2014 says:

    Reblogged this on Life On A Changing Planet and commented:
    Oh Ohh,
    I’m not near famous yet,but blogging can be difficult at the best of times,with the soapy drama on tv distracting me.
    Even more distracting are Kelly and Michael who create fond ringing in my ears.
    Still thou,the boobtube instills Spin The Wheel, forever.
    I’m back in my sitting room writing,thank heaven,where at least I can hear my ears ringing again.
    Stillness draws the letters around a more familiar sanity.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Great post and I’m so glad I found it. I was inspired to go outside with my lap top. I think when I’m writing I’m inside too much, which leads to a depressed feeling, for me, anyway!

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