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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: New Research Helps Writers Fight Depression

I started feeling it this last week: that dark heaviness lurking somewhere just below my conscious thoughts. It makes me burst into tears for no reason. I get clumsy and out of touch with my own body. I feel raw and unprotected. My joints ache. All I want to do is sleep, but sleep won’t come. My digestion gets wonky. Food has no taste.

Depression: I’ve had bouts with it all my life. It runs in my family. I lost my father and brother to suicide.

But I have better ways of fighting it than I used to. I now understand why it happens, and how to fight it off before it gets worse.

If you’re a writer who fights depression, know you’re not alone: a lot of great authors tend to be depressives. From Plato, who was reported to suffer from “melancholic disease,” to recent suicide David Foster Wallace, writing and depression seem inexorably linked. In Nancy Andreasen’s famous study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 80% of writers surveyed met the formal diagnostic criteria for depression.

Until recently, nobody knew the reason for this. But new research is giving us fresh data on the anatomy and purpose of depression. In his bestselling new book Imagine, How Creativity Works Jonah Lehrer gives some fascinating information concerning what he calls the “common cold” of mental illness.

He says brain function researchers have discovered the part of the brain active in depressive episodes is the same area we use for complex thought.


As a result of the new research, some evolutionary psychologists are hypothesizing that humans developed depression—with its accompanying rumination and lack of interest in normal activities—as a mechanism for focusing on problem-solving.

In other words, when Gog’s BFF died trying to spear that saber-toothed tiger, Gog got sad, mooned around not eating, sleeping or making little Gogs, and…invented a longer spear.

So there’s a reason for the darkness: if humans are too happy to see there’s a problem, they can’t become problem-solvers.

These studies show depressed people have enhanced reasoning power. In an article in the New York Times on the subject, Lehrer quoted one researcher who said, the results were clear: [depression] made people think better.”

This seems especially true for writers. Lehrer quoted another researcher who discovered “sadness correlates with clearer and more compelling sentences,” and Lehrer concluded, “because we’re more critical of what we’re writing, we produce more refined prose, the sentences polished by our angst.”

See—you’re not crazy, you’re just a really smart, creative writer!

Lehrer does admit:  “To say that depression has a purpose or that sadness makes us smarter says nothing about its awfulness.”

Whether or not you buy the evolutionary cause-and-effect, this research gives us tools for understanding—and perhaps managing—the depression that overwhelms so many of us.

If we accept that depressive episodes are going to come with long periods of building complex worlds in our heads, maybe we can cope by making sure we take frequent breaks for physical activity, social interaction or non-cerebral tasks (who knew that boring day job was saving you from mental illness?)

It’s like those folktales about journeys to fairyland: you can only stay in there a certain amount of time, or you'll die/go mad. The land where magic happens is also full of demons.  

I know exactly why depression has been attacking me: I’m about to launch my sixth book in less than a year. Nine if you count the anthologies and the Kindle single. I’m pushing to finish number seven/ten. I've been overusing that dark, creative part of my brain. 

It’s ironic that my newest book is called HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE…AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY!

I was starting to lose my own sanity—because I wasn’t taking my own advice. I've been spending too long in the brain territory where creativity lives side by side with the depression demons.

But I’m not going to get stuck there. Because of this new research, I’m not afraid of the darkness any more. Now I know it’s part of the creative process. When I see the pain as part of the package instead of a disease, I don’t have to label myself “crazy”—a sure-fire way to trigger the self-loathing that leads to severe depression.

I’m going to work with the darkness instead of medicating it away with pills. Those pills have always decreased my creativity and now I know why. If depression lives in the same place as creative thought, when you block out one, you’re going to interfere with the other.

NOTE: I’m not telling people with severe depression to forego the meds—they can be life-savers.

But to treat my incipient version of the disease, I’m going to lighten my load, spend more time away from the computer and shut out the noise that tells me that whatever I do isn’t enough. Last night I was invited to a fun party with a lot of creative, intelligent people. Earlier in the week, I decided I'd pass. I was supposed to bring a potluck dish--and it would be too much work and my digestion was a mess.

But as I started to think about this post, I realized I had to go. I knew it would be good medicine. And it was. My tummy is fine and I'm feeling amazingly more cheerful. Fun conversation and great food is one of the best ways to get out of your head and into the real world.

Of course I had to fight a little guilt.

When you spend most of your time on the Interwebz, you can feel as if you’re surrounded by superpersons who all have more hours in their days than you do. You’re bombarded by voices that say, “you can’t succeed unless you do this! And that! And these other 100 things! How dare you eat/sleep/read/have a family? You obviously don't really want to succeed!"

So you keep pushing yourself more and more. You become like the evil CEO who never hires new workers but expects a  higher and higher productivity level from an ever more stressed-out staff.

So I've stopped being the evil CEO of my own body.

I came across a fascinating fact last week in a post from Robin LaFevers on Writer Unboxed:

Suzanne Collins has almost no Web presence.

Really. The phenomenal bestselling author has no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Goodreads, Red Room, Library Thing, or Kindleboard profile. She’s got one tired website and has only written 8 books in her whole career.

But none of that seems to have hurt the sales of her HUNGER GAMES trilogy, does it?  

So it IS possible to succeed as a writer in the 21st century without churning out a book a month and being online 24/7! You can be a successful author and take care of yourself, too.

This gives me hope.

And for any of you out there who are prone to depressive episodes, it should give you hope, too.

Depression is indeed awful. But it helps to know why it exists. And it helps even more to know that you can nip it in the bud by shutting out the voices who push you to stay too long in that creative place that is equally full of magic and danger.  

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever had a bout with inner darkness?  Did it come after a long period of intense thought? Are you feeling depressed by the demands that you do too much?

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good to know one can succeed without churning out a book a month. If that were the truth, I'd be screwed!
Never thought about a connection to depression. Not sure I've ever been really depressed. (Unless you count the mid-life crisis thing, and I snapped that by buying a sports car!)

June 17, 2012 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Depression is a terrible thing - I know because I too have suffered in the past. I didn't particularly write then but I don't think I could have done what you do. Kudos to you for finding a way to cope!

June 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

When times are tough for me, I keep a journal. It's one way to pull it out of me and onto the page. That page can be discarded or kept, depending on it's purpose.

Liked this post!

June 17, 2012 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Fantastic post Anne! It's good to know that having trouble writing is a natural part of being writers - and well done you for being so strong with all that trauma in your life!

June 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Ah, Anne, Anne, Anne ... to say that us genius, creative types are prone, destined to the darker side of life ... who was the cartoonist who did the darker side? Oh, yes.

Runs in the family and to sweat Alex, it's a female thing for the most part. Women get despressed and withdraw ... men get angry and start wars !!

Sure. I have learned to balance it with MOVEMENT ... get the body moving and build in those andorphins. Then I seek company, I workout with friends, do stuff.

Even while I am deep into something, I have learned to break off, go do laundry, cook, anything.

Or you could apply another great adage: It's harder to hit a moving target :):) Have a great day!!

June 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Alex, I did mean SWEET !!

June 17, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Sandy Nathan said...

Great post, as usual, Anne. I'm looking forward to your book coming out. Put me down as a buyer! I'm someone depression has visited now and again, along with a few members of my family. Condition is inherited, it seems.

I have a totally new approach: I'm buying a new horse. After years of trying to rehab my beloved mare, Shakti, we've put her out to pasture where she can live out her life happily.

Which left me horse-less and depressed (even more) watching my friends and family hit the trail.

When I had the breakthrough––"Why don't you get a NEW horse?"––it was like a door in the universe opening. Whoosh! Stop thinking about pinterest, twitter, how long my posts stay up on FB, or my Klout score. Think about riding!

Of course, nothing is smooth in life. The search for the new equine has been bumpy. Last week,my husband and I drove 800 (800!) miles looking at 2 prospects. One belonged in a rescue, the other was lame.

I have faith that a sound horse with some meat on its bones exists somewhere.

While waiting to find it, I started a new book, which has my agent leaping up and down and me pretty happy, too.

My depression is gone, at least until FB posts my weekly stats.

Keep on writing these great posts!

June 17, 2012 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Glad that buying a sports car kicked the depression. Driving fast is probably a great way to get fight those demons, as long as you don't crash :-)

Pat--Thanks. I haven't been depressed for years, but too much time in deep thought seems to have triggered it. I won't let it blossom, though.

DG--Journaling can be good therapy for some people, but if you're depressed from too much thinking, it's not the best medicine. Socializing is better, if you can do it. Or playing with kids or animals. Something non-cerebral.

Charley--It's not so much having trouble writing as having trouble stopping. Taking frequent breaks is actually good for you. So go ahead and go to the corner shop for a chocolate bar. It's all in the interest of mental health :-)

Fois--You're so right that movement of any kind is great for fighting depression. Walking, dancing, riding a horse like Sandy N.--all really healthy. I think depression is an equal opportunity destroyer, though. It's the men in my family who die of it.

Sandy--Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I hope you find your horse! Since movement and being with animals are two of the best things for mental health, I can't think of anything better than horse-riding.

June 17, 2012 at 11:20 AM  
Anonymous SK Figler said...

Being one of the type who would climb on a horse...facing backwards, I must say I react to depression the opposite way. When depressed, I can't write. I write when I'm happy, even though I write about some very unhappy things. Probably makes me a statistical outlier, but then I've never been much of a joiner. Got kicked out of the Boy Scouts for lack of ambition. (Didn't want to earn merit badges.) Anyway, I offer this comment to show, what?, the lighter side of darkness?

Excellent and thoughtful post, Ann. But, please, don't drop your website "burden." They are so insightful and helpful.
---Steve (skfigler.com)

June 17, 2012 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, what a brave & fascinating post. The good news about the bad news of depression is that more & more is being discovered about its roots. New meds & new therapies are sure to follow.

I'm not entirely surprised by this discovery & would observe that one could view depression as a different (ie, creative) way of looking at the same reality. I personally find the current relentless pressure to 'be positive' depressing in itself.

To conclude: Not meds, nor booze, here's a YouTube clip I just came across which is (practically) guaranteed to bring a smile. Young people in Moscow dancing to the old Irving Berlin song, "Puttin On The Rits."

June 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger In My Opinion said...

debra dot bekker at gmail dot com.

Writing has saved my life on more than one occasion. I am bipolar and when my head gets noisy, I write. It helps me focus and gets rid of (some) the negative self talk.Brilliant post, thank you!


June 17, 2012 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

So good to know I'm not just crazy, I'm overusing my small amount of creativity :) I'm about as depressed as a writer gets right now what with feeling so far behind on my blog commenting, book reading, review writing (I haven't forgotten the one I promised you) and of course my own writing. Completing a project doesn't give me the "high" of accomplishment that it used to.

I'm thinking I will enjoy your novel on how to be a writer; and it is satisfying to know there are successful authors out there that do not live online.

Thanks for posting this research info. I feel better already for having read it.


June 17, 2012 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

Oh, you already have my e-mail, right Anne?

And if you are ever in the Redding, Sacramento, San Francisco area or anywhere in Norther CA, let me know. I'd love to attend one of your seminars.


June 17, 2012 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Rhonda Rae Baker said...

What an important post, thank you so much. I've never put this together but really get it. I would love to win your contest and can't wait to read your new book with my friend Catherine! My address is rhondaraebaker at gmail. Thank you!

June 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Steve--LOL. The lighter side of darkness. I'm picturing you on that horse...I think severe depression takes up so much of that brain-space that the creativity doesn't work. I do know that severe depression makes creativity impossible for me.

Ruth--What a fantastic video! I recommend everybody who's even vaguely sad watch it. (Or if you're happy, too.) My favorite part is the Russian army guys dancing those silly steps. Bollywood goes Bolshevik? I agree about dictums to be relentlessly cheery. You CAN afford the luxury of a negative thought--or you'll die of terminal chirpitude.

Debra---I'll put you on the list. There are so many different kinds of depression--and they come from different sources. Sometimes critical/creative thought is exactly what you need.

Donna--We feel so much pressure to overload ourselves, don't we? And with an emotionally taxing job like yours, it's doubly hard. Sometimes you really just have to let yourself vegetate and daydream.

I'll put you on the list! I don't know if we'll ever go up north, but if we do, I sure will let you know.

June 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

Great post and very interesting info, Anne. I write full-time and so, I spend *very* long hours at my desk, and it can be easy to lose a healthy perspective of my work and the real world. To feel and be healthier, I work out, go to the gym and spend time outdoors with my horses. I notice that this boosts my mood a lot and after a day of riding, for example, I'm often a lot more creative the day after. It's easy for me to feel depressed if I don't get exercise. Sometimes I also drop my work even though I've got a lot to do (and I always do) and go out and do something social. Like today, I spent the day at a winery with my family even though I'm working like a crazy person to meet some really tight deadlines.

June 17, 2012 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rhonda Rae--Welcome. You're now on the list. I'm glad you "get" it--it's so "easy" but we have a culture that tries to force you to abuse your own mental health.

Ranae Rose--(You and Rhonda Rae should form a singing duo or something :-)) Exactly: the "gift" of being able to write full time can backfire. People like you and Sandy N who have horses seem to have found a great antidote. Wine tasting is good, too! We're so blessed to live in wine country.

June 17, 2012 at 7:56 PM  
Anonymous amy rubinate said...

Thank you for sharing these great ideas. And I love the reference to Suzanne Collins as proof of possibility! Finding even one example of that thing you thought wasn't possible can change your whole perspective...

June 17, 2012 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Hayley N. Jones said...

Interesting post. Personally, I found that taking medication has made me more creative if anything - it stops me from being so absorbed with negative thinking that I can't do anything else.

I also think writing tends to attract people who have depressive tendencies because it's one of the few careers where most of the work is done alone and can be scheduled around one's mood/illness. I suppose the same is true of many other artistic puruits.

June 18, 2012 at 12:42 AM  
Anonymous live sports said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 18, 2012 at 1:14 AM  
Blogger Clarissa Draper said...

Manic Depression runs in my family and I know I suffer from depression. However, for me, when I'm writing, I'm like I'm in manic phase. I can hardly sleep, I hardly eat, I'm super energized and I'm in other worlds mainly except the real one. I fight depression every day though and I like your insights into the simularities between creativity and depression.

June 18, 2012 at 5:53 AM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Great post. Certainly one of those chicken/egg ideas. Are you creative because you're depressed/manic/whatever or is that a reaction to/salve to the disordering? Very interesting. More research is surely needed.

June 18, 2012 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger bob said...

Anne, I know the dark feeling that you focused on with this post. You probably don't want to hear this, at least most people do not, but there is help. Ask Jesus to come into your life.

June 18, 2012 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger Christine Monson said...

Great post Anne! While reading it, it had me thinking. Everyone in my family who suffered from depression wrote stories, poems, letters. They loved to write, so it seemed. Now, it makes me wonder...

Take care of yourself. You are a great writer; it's okay to unplug every once in a while. Your fans and friends will still be here when you come back.

June 18, 2012 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Henry Hallan said...

I have suffered depression intermittently through my life. It runs in our family.

The only time it got bad enough to stop me writing was when my mother died. That killed my writing stone dead for months, except for one short story which is firmly imprisoned in the darkest corner of my hard drive. That was strange. I thought I would never write again.

But I did.

I can't say that all writers suffer depression, but I'm another data point, it seems.

June 18, 2012 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Amy--It sure made me feel better to hear about Suzanne Collins! Just writing some brilliant, earth-shaking books can be enough after all.

Hayley--Actually, writing isn't the lonely job it used to be. With social networking, we can be with people all day. Kristen Lamb's great book "We are Not Alone--the writer's guide to social media" is all about that. The secret is not to overdo the networking.

Clarissa--I think bi-polar disorders may involve different brain chemistry from what Lehrer is talking about, but if you know you're susceptible, it's good to be wary of overusing that part of the brain. (I feel your pain.)

Chura--This new research gives a lot of insight. Of course contented people with no problems are less likely to want to change things, so it's probably true that creativity comes from people with a tendency to be discontent.

bob--How do you know He's not there already? Being a member of a church doesn't make you immune to disease. My novel Food of Love is about a devout Baptist minister who battles her own demons.

Christine--Thanks for the encouragement. Lehrer actually argues that depression can be good for creativity, since they go hand in hand. The trick is to keep from getting stuck in that creative place and letting the creativity move to depression.

June 18, 2012 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Shelley Schanfield said...

Thank you so much for this brave post, Anne. No surprise to find such a close link between creativity and depression--so many great artists, composers, and writers have suffered from it. Knowing that can help keep those dark days in perspective for anyone who tries to express themselves through art. My son just gave me Lehrer's book, and I am looking forward to reading more of what he says.

When I feel that familiar darkness coming on, I often return to this passage from a book by John Kabat-Zinn, a practicing Buddhist and researcher on the effectives of meditation on stress and chronic pain. The book is "Everyday Blessings. Here's what he says: "A veritable river of grief seems to flow through us...we may have no idea it is there. But this river of grief is never as far from us or as foreign to us as we might think..."

He goes on to say that people who are more open to their own grief are less judgmental of others. IMHO, that might be what makes really good writers so perceptive, that acknowledgment of one's own inner suffering and the ability to see conflict and pain in others.

One of the Buddha's truths is that suffering is inevitable, but it is only transient, like all of life.

The whole secret to leading productive life, it seems, is to make use of that suffering.

Thank you again for encouraging us to stop being evil CEOs of ourselves, and spreading the hope with that fact about Suzanne Collins' web presence. It made me think of how I just read and loved Ann Patchett's "State of Wonder," but I have no interest in finding out if she has a website or blog or tweets or anything. It's enough she could write such a beautiful, thought-provoking book.

June 18, 2012 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

Just an FYI, for those who may not have come across this, but there is lots of information out there linking mental issues to the modern diet. I've known a lot of vegans and vegetarians, in particular, with these issues.

Worth Googling:

The Weston A Price Foundation (lots of information on why your grandparents were right to make you eat bone broth soups and liver)

The Bulletproof Executive Diet (based on the paleo diet but more emphasis on fats -- people avoid fats like the plague even though our brains are made of the stuff, and I can speak from personal experience what a difference in your mood lowering carbs and adding ghee and coconut oil/butter to the diet makes)

Good luck to all.

June 18, 2012 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Tara McTiernan said...

Thank you! How wonderful and uplifting is this? I've suffered from depression since I was a child and am gratified to hear that there's some silver lining in all that muck and blackness. Also, I must agree: my experience is that, though depression makes you want to hide at home, the best cure for your misery is getting out and spending time with other people, even if you have to launch yourself physically out the door like a projectile.

June 18, 2012 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shelley--Thanks much for the info about the Buddhist take on all this. It makes sense to me. And I do believe that "using" your suffering rather than trying to ignore it is a more effective road to happiness. I also really agree about the judgmental aspect. When we stop judging ourselves, we stop judging others as well. Jesus said it too. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" doesn't have to be taken as a reference to some "last judgement." it's a statement of fact: When you stop judging, you stop feeling judged.

I don't think Ann Patchett has much of a Web presence either. :-)

Lindsay--That's fascinating! When I'm depressed I actually crave liver. (Yeah. I know I'm weird.) I got super depressed--and gained tons of weight--on a low-fat diet. I follow a mostly paleo diet now. I'll check out your info. Thanks!

Tara--I'm so glad this reached you. Yes, I feel the same way. When I'm depressed, I hate to go out and be with people, but if I make myself do it, I always feel better. I've found that going out where music is playing is good. I don't have to talk, but I can be part of a "tribe". Humans are herd animals, so we need to be with others of our kind, no matter how painful it seems.

June 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Henry--Sometimes posts come in at the same time as I'm typing a comment, so I miss them. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It's definitely a hereditary disease--or the tendency to it is inherited anyway. Sorry for the loss of your mom. Your experience mirrors mine. When the depression gets bad, I can't write. Or what I write is awful. Whether it's really brain chemistry or not, it certainly works as a metaphor: that creative part of your brain seems to get pushed aside by the depression. So it works for me to think they're occupying the same space.

I don't think it's true that all writers suffer from depression: look at Nora Roberts and James Patterson, who seem to be able to knock out a novel a month and stay blissfully happy. But if you're prone to depression, knowing it's linked to that creative part of the brain is a tool to help fight it.

June 18, 2012 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Ilana Waters said...

I'm very interested in hearing more about your book when it's out. Please include me on your list! (ilanabethwaters[at]yahoo[dot]com.
And thank you for having the courage to bring up this very important topic of writers and depression. I wish you peace on your future writing journeys.

June 18, 2012 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Melissa Rynbout said...

Thank you for such an insightful post, Anne. I had no idea that depression and creativity could be linked. Also, as good as the internet is, sometimes I think it's unhealthy when we spend too much time on it. Lately, I have been, as I've been madly researching the whole writer/blogging thing and at times I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information - not to mention the sheer number of people out there with blogs who all seem to have so much to say and so much time to say it in and I have felt as if the whole thing is a mountain too big for me to climb. You always have a way of putting it all back into perspective so thanks!

June 19, 2012 at 2:13 AM  
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June 19, 2012 at 3:06 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

This post could not have come up at a better time. In fact If I'd read it Sunday Monday might not have been an issue...

Isn't it funny how knowing the source can help make it lighter? I've never called it depression, but rather the blues. Originally I suspect it to be linked to my cycle, but now perhaps it is a little more. Who knows. either way this current dark tide seems to be seems to be ebbing.

I took your advice and watched a movie with my hubby. It was good, for both of us really, to take a break - plus it doubled as a date night. :}

(P.S. I just finished reading Ghost Writers in the Sky *grins*)

(P.S.S I can't wait till your How to book comes out!)

June 19, 2012 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Henry Hallan said...

Anne -- I was only truly stopped from writing by that one occasion. It was odd and frightening because it was so unfamiliar. I didn't feel like _me_ when I couldn't tell stories. I write compulsively: maybe 200,000 words a year, even though I have a day-job (still).

My writing may be skewed by my moods, but I write snowflake, so I can normally pick a section to write that is easier in my current mood. Depression makes it easier to make my characters' lives miserable.

And that might be the way depression helps me write. If writing is painting with emotions, I (and other writers who have experienced depression) have a whole palette of contrasting colours to choose from.

June 19, 2012 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ilana--Thanks! You're now on the list. It is an important subject, and I'm finding out how many people are misinformed (a strange thread is running about this post on the Kindleboards--mostly by people who aren't reading the post.) I didn't know there was so much animosity and bogus "information" out there.

Melissa--Information overload is a hazard of the e-age. I think too much time online can definitely be harmful and the pressure to do too much can be overwhelming. I feel it too. It's like we're all standing in a huge crowd screaming at the top of our lungs. How can we be heard above the noise? I hope you've read my piece on Slow Blogging. I read today that the Blog Tyrant, who used to advocate daily blogposts, now slow blogs.

Cathryn--Very good point on the subject of knowing the cause something. If you know your thumb hurts because you hit it with a hammer, you're in pain and maybe feel stupid, but you don't panic. If your thumb hurts that bad and you don't know the cause, you're terrified you have thumb cancer or flesh eating bacteria or something dire. Glad this post helped!

Henry--You may have been suffering from something our culture doesn't know how to deal with very well: grief. It's not depression and we shouldn't pathologize it. We all mourn in our own way, and it's necessary to feel our grief and not push it aside or medicate it, even though it's one of the most painful parts of life. Your temporary inability to write may have been a healthy part of your mourning process.

June 19, 2012 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger LK Watts said...

Hi Anne,

Sorry to hear about your depression, that sounds awful.

I think the key to overall mental health happiness is to keep some sort of balance within your life. Remember the saying - 'Too much of a good thing is bad for you.'

I think that's very true.

June 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM  
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June 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM  
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June 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LK--Thanks so much. It's true that the pressure to do nothing but work on your career can lead to bad places. So do what I say and not what I do. :-)

And it looks as if I may have to put the dreaded CAPCHA back on, in spite of preaching against it all these years. There are way too many spambots getting through to the comments thread this week.

June 19, 2012 at 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Sophie Dawson said...

Very good article. I, too, suffer from depression. I didn't know it for years as I could function as mom and wife and I hid it well. Medication helps but the writing I do, the stories I make up, help with the emotions the meds don't.

It's good to know that God had a purpose for the way we feel when the darkness descends.

Thanks for a great article.

June 20, 2012 at 7:17 AM  
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June 20, 2012 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sophie--Thanks for speaking up. There are so many of us. I agree that knowing there's a purpose helps with the pain and also helps us fight it.

June 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne - You're definitely one of those writers who makes me feel like I'm not doing enough online! But I've come to accept that we all have different lives (I have two small children) and different circumstances and different needs, and I just have to do what I can. That said, I don't get enough sleep. At all. And it's not because of my kids. It's a problem, but it hasn't gotten bad enough yet that I've had to change my ways. I take daytime naps with my kids every couple of days and that gets me through. But life is hectic, and I don't want to live this way forever.

So glad you are able to recognize the darkness coming on and address it before it gets too serious. My own solution in periods like that is to take it easy on myself - get more rest, lie in bed reading for a day, get a massage, listen to what my body and mind really need. I think time away from the Internet is always a good thing. I wonder if there will be a backlash against social media by a majority of authors some day, a return to the cut-off writer in his basement spending all day reading and writing, unconnected from the world.

Congrats on the release of your next ebook! Can't wait to read it. And six books in one year! Holy prolificus, Batman! You're amazing!

June 22, 2012 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Callie Leuck said...

I have mused about whether there is some correlation between creativity and mental illness. It seems like many of the most-intelligent, creative people I know have ADHD and/or suffer from severe bouts of depression. I'll have to read this book; it sounds fascinating.

June 22, 2012 at 5:06 PM  
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June 23, 2012 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan--I'm so sorry if it seems like I'm one of the pressure-people. I feel as if everybody online thinks I'm a slacker because I don't do enough. So many of the indies are self-promo machines that go 24/7 and put out a book a month. But they're younger than me. And it's not such a steep learning curve for them. When my computer died in April, I lost almost a month trying to learn new tech. I'm so in awe of people who can do all the coding and design stuff.

Of course, I'm even more in awe of moms. I don't know how anybody raises children these days. So much is expected of you. My sister had real problems getting enough sleep when her kids were young. She says she wouldn't have survived without Ambien.

I do envy those writers-in-garrets of yore. I'd love me a garret right about now. One over a cafe in Paris would be nice...

Actually this next book is going to be in paper as well as ebook. Available in the US, CA and the UK. We want to reach the not-so-tech savvy new writer, too.

Callie--Thanks. Lehrer's book is indeed fascinating. He has all sorts of innovative things to say about the creative mind.

June 23, 2012 at 2:17 PM  
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June 24, 2012 at 4:49 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

A very timely post. Thank you. I am someone who has been told, "You think so loud." Even when I'm not talking, everyone around me knows that my brain is going. All. The. Time. I do value that I can think when I need to, but knowing that I am "always on" can be very uncomfortable for me and for people around me.

I've been working through the years to find ways to shut the mind off occasionally, but I never connected clicking off to helping me overcome The Darkness (and that is how I think of it). Seeing this post today was a lovely ray of "Aha!" that will help me to be more mindful of how to keep on coping.

Thanks again!

June 24, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maya--I love the concept of "thinking loud." Some of us do tend to live in our heads too much and forget to be in the physical present. Turning off the brain and tending to the body is essential, but hard to do for some of us. So glad to provide a ray of "aha".

June 24, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Tia Fielding said...

This was certainly an interesting read to an author with "recurrent severe depression."

In some ways I think I'm holding on to my depression now that I have it again, as perverse as it sounds. It's something that allows me to create, so why would I want it completely gone? Then again, the darkest of the dark days are too bad for writing, so those I'm not too keen on.

Whenever the darkness comes too close, I lose the ability to write. That means stepping back from the stress and waiting it out. Once it lessens, I can write again.

This bpost of yours makes me think that I was right years ago when I thought that somehow people who had experience with depression were deeper thinkers and felt some sort of connection between one another. We're all part of the same tribe. :)

June 24, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Henry Hallan said...

So many of the indies are self-promo machines that go 24/7 and put out a book a month. But they're younger than me.

Some of us have day-jobs, too. If I put out a book every six months, I'll be happy with that.

Actually this next book is going to be in paper as well as ebook. Available in the US, CA and the UK. We want to reach the not-so-tech savvy new writer, too.

I've sold more on paper than in kindle, which is not so common in a self-published author. But I'm in Ireland, and physical book sales are still significant here.

June 25, 2012 at 1:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tia--Thanks so much for the empathetic comment. I do think that fellow sufferers share a bond. I know well that moment of teetering between intense thinking and "the darkness". It's a fine line indeed.

Henry--Thanks much for the info on paper sales in Ireland. Our publisher wants to target UK/Eire sales with paper and hopes to get us into Waterstones and other UK outlets with paper. It would be nice.

A book every six months is a whole lot for somebody with a day job. It used to be that full time writers were only expected to write one a year. But we're all pretty driven, aren't we?

June 25, 2012 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Barbara Ruth Saunders said...

"(Who knew that boring day job was saving you from mental illness?)"

Fascinating ... my day job is also writing. I did feel generally saner when my day jobs were physical - fitness training, waiting tables. (And those jobs weren't even boring - just low paid!)

June 29, 2012 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

It's so true, Barbara. Since I've been writing full time (like 12-14 hours a day) I've had to fight off the depression. When I was slogging away at a day job half the time, my moods were much more even. Balance. I guess it's all about balance.

June 29, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger jbchicoine said...

Interesting post, especailly since I'm struggle with periodic bouts of depression! I'm still trying to figure out how depression and creativity seem to work hand-in-hand...I found these articles to be of interest, also:

Self-reflection may lead independently to creativity, depression

Why We Sing the Blues: The Relation Between Self-Reflective Rumination, Mood, and Creativity

Creativity and Depression: Is There a Link?

June 29, 2012 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

jb--Thanks so much for these links! And for taking the time to make them live. They certainly substantiate what Lehrer said. And they quote specific studies. When Ruth posted this on the Kindleboards, we got a lot of snark saying "where's your proof?" Obviously I'm not a brain research scientist, so I didn't conduct these experiments myself and neither did Mr. Lehrer. But here are links to a few of the studies that led to the conclusions. I really appreciate it.

June 29, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Liz Fichera said...

Love this: "To say that depression has a purpose or that sadness makes us smarter says nothing about its awfulness.”

So true.

And my hats off to Suzanne Collins.

July 1, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
OpenID aesiraki said...

Hi Anne!
This post hit the head on the nail for me in so many ways. I struggle with depressed thoughts and feelings, insecurity, self-doubt--the usual ingredients to the frustrated writer salad, you might say--and to hear this new research was fascinating but also filled me with a sense of hope. It's always comforting to hear that we're not alone and that we're not the only one going through something even it sometimes feels that way. It's actually one of the reasons I took a social media break for a month, because the constant jabbering of voices on social media that made me feel not good enough and the "do this! no, wait, do these other 100 things too!" were getting to be too much, so your example of Suzanne Collins and her success was a great one to bring up! Thanks so much for another great post!

November 3, 2014 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anita--Thanks so much for commenting. I love your expression "frustrated writer salad"! I felt this research was hopeful too.

I've been offline for most of the last two days (which is why this didn't go up right away.) I had a visit from a cousin I hadn't seen in years and decided to spend the time with her instead of going online. We walked and went out for lovely meals and had no screen time. I can't tell you how much happier I feel. I'm going to do this regularly. I'm not sure I could do it for a month like you, but I hope to do it once a week..

You are so right that the constant voices telling you that whatever you're doing is wrong could make anybody depressed!

November 4, 2014 at 9:43 AM  

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