Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Writing With The Black Dog (Feb 1, 2010)

(This is a repost from the old VOX blog - apparently a few of those didn't make it to here when I migrated.)

"Writing won't banish depression. But depression doesn't have to banish writing. If you can manage to write through a depression, you will be in distinguished company. And you will very likely write something of worth."

-Susan Shaughnessy, Walking on Alligators

Many creative people suffer from some form of depression. The poet Byron referred to depression as "The Black Dog", as did Mike Wallace and Winston Churchill, but the phrase may have originated as early as Roman times. The idea of having 'a black dog on your back' has been around a long time, and it seems artists represent a large portion of the population of depressed people. Writing when depressed is very difficult. When you feel as if you're worthless, that you'll never succeed, that the future is a bleak and empty landscape with no light and no joy, it can be nearly impossible to put pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas. But it is possible to write through it.

This morning I found myself desperately wishing to avoid the day. I dozed off for an extra twenty minutes, then hopped out of bed to make up the time. I received a troublesome piece of news in the mail on Saturday (why do they always send them on the weekend?) and though I fought off the funk in order to enjoy my weekend, on Monday I'm reminded that the issues I ignored for two days are still there and still need to be dealt with. I wrote in my Morning Pages, despite not really wanting to, and discovered therein a silent, non-judgmental friend. I've written Morning Pages for many months but never had this sense of 'whatever you want to say, I'm here to listen' before. It was a great relief, and I finished all three pages and came up with a potential story idea to boot.

I'm a little puzzled by my success, though I'd never say I'd beaten the Black Dog. I don't think it's possible to 'beat' it. You have to learn to live with it, and each day typically brings a new struggle. But here I am, writing for my blog, when really I wanted most to just hide somewhere until the world got a little less scary. The world doesn't change, though; it's up to me to adjust my view and make plans to sort out my problems, where applicable.

That said, I'll point out it's easy to say such things when I'm feeling alright, like I am right now. I have a cup of hot tea and since WRTI is doing a membership drive (I'd love to become a member, but my money needs to go other places just now, guys, sorry) and therefore doing more talking than music-playing, I've got Gustav Holst's "The Planets" symphony in my earbuds. It's very nice. I just heard "Neptune, The Mystic" and now "Venus, The Bringer of Peace" is playing. I feel tranquil and content. The sun is shining and though it's frigid outside, it's comfy here in my study. I've pushed past the Black Dog and am letting him follow me, though not close enough to nip at my heels. Not now. Not today.

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