1. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    Depression and Creativity

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Michael Timothy, Oct 16, 2013.

    For a long time, mostly when I was a teenager, I would've told you I thought that people who were depressed were the most creative. That might have had something to do with the depression I suffered at the time. But now, I still wonder: Is there a link between depression and creativity?

    It certainly does seem that a lot of creative people get depressed. It can be a very fickle endeavour with lots of ups and downs. But even as recently as this year, I found myself in a depressive slump. It lasted throughout the summer, and admittedly I didn't get that much writing done as a teenager, either. It's only now, looking back on the last few months, that I notice how much darker and emptier my mind and imagination were. How can you create something with a blank mind?

    What are your thoughts on this? I'm really interested to know.
     
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  2. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Quite a few people have considered that issue here.
     
  3. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Depression leads to seclusion (at least mine did) and seclusion leads to your mind going banana nut-butters all over the place, because you only have yourself

    You view things how you want your life to be in your mind. How you wished you were, how you view the world. My extreme creativity was an escape mechanism when I didn't want to face reality anymore.
     
  4. Darrell Standing
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    Darrell Standing Member

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    Well it's more interesting to listen to a person who has a gripe than a person who's totally happy about everything...and that's where writing comes in....you can say express stuff in writing you might nt be able to express to people around you...
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    A link between mood disorders and creativity is well documented. The reasons can be many, depending what perspective you take. It could be a self-medicating mechanism that releases tension and makes one feel better, like exercise. It's always better to talk it out when we are feeling down. It could be the motivation for contemplation about human condition. Happy people are too busy being happy and doing stuff to sit and agonise over a story. Maybe the mood disorder drives speech, so production of words is simply a fact of life. These tend to oscillate between periods of increased productivity and periods of amotivation. There are many reasons, I'm sure, and there are happy people who write too. A connection doesn't imply exclusivity.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  6. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    When you're depressed you tend to be by yourself a lot, either by choice or otherwise. It works good like exercise(Like Jazzabel said) in making you feel better, and it also lets you take your mind of things. Another thing is it makes you feel productive also making you feel better as you feel as you are improving yourself. I first tried writing(And a couple of other things) when I was depressed.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    In the context of creating art, however, increased creativity may not be all it's hyped up to be. I would argue that discipline and dedication are more important.
     
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  8. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    @thirdwind: I'm not sure I agree.

    I see where you're coming from, but I don't think it's the context of creating art in which hard work and discipline are the most important. They are certainly factors, but I think that in just the context of creating art, that is the act of writing or painting, etc., increased creativity is the most important. A real burst of creativity, as we all know, usually keeps you going for a while. But, if we're talking about being a working artist (which I understand is the assumption behind most writing forums), then discipline and dedication certainly take a front seat. Even so, I still don't think you can discount the ability to find inspiration quickly in that endeavour, either.

    I think increased creativity, discipline, and dedication all go hand in hand in that case.
     
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  9. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    There are many different reasons people write. I can only speak from personal experience when I say that I've noticed nothing but an increasing in productivity since I've let go of my depression. I am also the type of person with a commitment to being a working writer, so it could also be the case that I'm happy because I'm writing more, or at least seeing more results.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don't have the discipline to sit down and bring it to fruition, it's all pointless. Quite honestly, coming up with an idea is not that hard. Sticking with it till the end is the hard part.
     
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  11. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    I think it depends on what type of creative outlet (or even genre) that you're using. For me, writing poetry came naturally when I was depressed and anxious. Not so much now that I'm getting it under control. With my longer pieces, I can tell when I'm having a bad day because I don't want to write, and everything I do write is crap. My dad, for example, when he's feeling anxious and depressed will only sit on the couch and watch TV. He won't tinker around the house, he won't go for walks, he won't come up with any of his normal schemes. Even Mozart couldn't perform with his depression, and couldn't finish the piece that he was commissioned to do.
     
  12. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    If only it were that easy.
     
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  13. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    It definitely isn't. I didn't mean to imply by saying that it had happened that it was just as easy as deciding. It is, but it takes a whole ton of effort.
     
  14. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that, yes, depressed people probably have a better ability to sit down and write for long periods, because (I sound awful saying this) they aren't motivated to go out and do things. But everybody is 'creative' equally, in my opinion. It's discipline that makes a difference. Even if there was evidence linking depression with imagination, a 'burst' of creativity isn't always relative to what you're working on. That's why some people have more than a few roasts in the oven, and they usually aren't baking too fast. When I need to finish something, and I'm finding plot holes, gaps in motivation, and straight up logical errors, the last thing I want to do is work to fix them; my mind is already cooking up a much more appealing, and different story idea.
    The grass is not greener. Chaining my imagination and using it to fill gaps and make a solid novel is painful at times, but it is worth it. I know that will run into the same problems with that sparkly new idea, anyway.

    I think that anybody having issues with creativity, needs to stop and file away a question, like:

    What should I write?
    What would be her motivation to do this here?
    How do I get this character over there?
    What should his name be?
    How do I describe that?

    Then either continue on and come back to that point later, go for a walk, or clean something, or take a nap; anything solitary, really. Even if someone is not consciously thinking about it, that question will bounce around the old noggin' and stumble over an answer or two eventually. And sometimes that answer will answer five other questions, add more depth, and renew interest in your current WIP. The creativity is more useful and focused that way; like a laser instead of an explosion.

    Until Mr. King got run over, I bet that taking long walks was his secret for defeating writer's block.;)
     
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  15. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Maybe it's just me, but there comes a point in my cycle of depression, when I take a hard look at what I've written, and I become even more despondent because of it. Every creative outlet I have suffers in this way. I'm a trained musician, and there are days I can't even tell if I've tuned my guitar correctly. I try to be disciplined and apply myself, despite wanting to close my eyes and wish it all away. The more I try, the more I feel my attempts are worth nothing, and I retreat into myself.

    Then I become manic, thoughts flow freely and I go with them, and sometimes, just sometimes, I manage to write something worthwhile, but generally not.

    Truly, the only time I write well, (or at least as well as I am capable) is in the stable period in between.
     
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  16. HarleyQ.
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    HarleyQ. Just a Little Pit Bull (female)

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    Many people think mental illness comes with creativity and intelligence because some disorders, such as schizophrenia, open up a part of the brain no sane person could be in touch with. I agree with this. How could a sane person get into the brilliant mindset of Sylvia Plath? How could one win the Nobel Prize with such a finding as John Nash's if they were sane? Van Gogh? Bach? Beethoven?! Mozart?!

    The list goes on. Depression/mental illness obviously comes with creativity and intelligence (I'm not talking about everyday creativity).

    @obsidian_cicatrix: It's true. When I wasn't "stable" (not so stable now) I wrote some of the worst things in my life. It was because I couldn't, at the time, stop all the ideas and thoughts that poured in. They made my novel hard to read and messy, with a million backstories and characters coming into play every other scene. How I wish I could be like I am now all the time!
     
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  17. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I'm reasonably talented in a few creative areas, music and painting in particular. These talents seem almost inherent in me. They weren't something I had to work hard at. But sometimes I feel I paid a heavy price in other respects.

    @HarleyQ.

    Exactly. The contrary is true for me too. Sometimes, I feel nothing.

    I came to writing late, so it's not a thing I'm well practiced in. My 'voice' changes so often, to make any sense of what I write, I have to resort to a lot of heavy editing after the fact. Otherwise, the only person who could read and understand it would be me.
     
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  18. HarleyQ.
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    HarleyQ. Just a Little Pit Bull (female)

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    @obsidian_cicatrix: Thank goodness I'm not the only one who went through that. I thought I'd never meet another who knows what it's like!
     
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  19. Dresden260
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    Dresden260 Corrupt Diplomat

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    I was depressed for a long time from the end of Highschool to about my 3rd year of College. I found that during the time I wrote some of the darkest parts of my novel with ease. The fluffy stuff I had issues with for obvious reasons. So in my opinion Creativity of a certain type can be made if your depressed
     
  20. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Dresden260 I think it really depends... I've been battling this for 32 years. It doesn't get easier with practice, believe me.
     
  21. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @HarleyQ. I've met a few, so I know it's not just me. That makes me feel a little better about it. So, I can relate.
     
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  22. Michael Timothy
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    Michael Timothy Member

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    Reading the discussion, I wonder if I was a little too broad in my definition of depression. I categorized all depression the same when it really has numerous, intricate causes. It seems like most of the people who've responded here have memories of producing good work while depressed, while others were completely blocked. I wonder what the reason for the difference is.
     
  23. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Michael Timothy Good question.

    I'm musing on it, but my brain is lagging a bit today. It may take a while to formulate an answer. ;)

    For people who are going through a rough patch, I don't think expression is so much an issue. I'm never going to be cured of my bi polar. I can only do my best to try and keep it under control and, as I age, it seems to be getting more difficult. I was warned this might happen.
     
  24. Darrell Standing
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    Darrell Standing Member

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    Sorry to hear people are suffering with depression. I have suffered on and off with depression since I as about 15. Some days u just go into the rabbit hole and it feels you're not going to come back out. I find if I keep busy, mind and body and avoid alcohol and drugs my mood is fine...as long as I don't get into big flaming arguments with family, at work etc....(sorry, prob goin off the subject here)...
     
  25. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Darrell Standing I've taken up residence in said rabbit hole on many's an occasion. Avoiding unecessary stress is a big one with me too. Although what I call stress and what others do, can be two different things. I must appear very irrational at times.
     

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