Mental Illness and Creativity

This is hardly a revelation, but many of the most creative minds the world has produced suffered from mental health issues to some degree or another. From Pablo Picasso to Charles Dickens, the struggle against the mind is intertwined with the creation of art.

That’s not really what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is why I’ve seemingly abandoned this blog, despite its one-time popularity and my commitment to writing. You see, from hundreds of posts in 2012 when I started to only 30 so far this year, my participation in this blog has dwindled, but it isn’t because I’ve been more depressed, or less committed to writing.

It’s because I’ve been medicated.

I suffer from bipolar disorder, which comes with periods of crushing depression, alternated with periods of (for me) hypomania – not quite the euphoric, top-of-the-world feeling of some sufferers, but rather a sense of needing to be prolific, to be productive, to get things done.

Back in 2012, when I first started blogging (also, as it happens, when I started work on The Redemption of Erâth), I was completely unmedicated. And looking back, I think I was going through a long, drawn-out manic phase. I would blog three to four times a week, write for hours a day, and wrote a complete first draft in three months (by contrast, the most recent book in the series, Ancients & Death, took over a year to write).

This period of productivity came with its downsides, too; I became distant from my family, using my writing as an excuse to ignore them and sit in my office for hours, sometimes days, at a time. That wasn’t fair to them. I focused so heavily on my writing that all else – my life, my job – became secondary.

But then something happened. Around 2013 or 2014 (I can’t remember exactly), I went to my doctor and asked for help. I couldn’t handle the depression and the mania anymore. And since then, on and off, I’ve been on a variety of medications, some of which are helpful and others that I had to leave well alone. And one of the things that this medication has done is keep me on a flat, level plane.

That’s okay – it’s what they’re supposed to do. But it has hindered my creativity … to an extent. Whilst I’m not usually cripplingly depressed, nor do I have any real manic phases, which leads to the problem: sometimes I just don’t do anything.

I want to blog regularly. I want to pick back up on my Thought of the Week posts, and others. But the motivation is hard to come by. It isn’t depression – it’s just a lack of desire.

In the meantime, I have done work; I wrote and released my young adult book 22 Scars, and I’ve been working hard at editing and finalizing Ancients & Death. And now, it’s ready for release.

With the book writing a little more out of the way (I’ll probably pick up on the sequel to Ancients & Death sometime in the new year), maybe I can focus back on blogging a bit more. I’d certainly like to revitalize this page. And who knows? Maybe I’ll make some new friends again!


The Redemption of Erâth: Ancients & Death (Vol. III) is available for pre-order, and will be released on Sunday, November 4th.

How do you keep the vision alive, after so many years?

It occurred to me today that I have been running this blog here at satiswrites.com for a little over five years—my first post was published on October 5, 2011, in an effort to encourage myself to participate in NaNoWriMo that year. My first Thought of the Week post was about the children’s book The Phantom Tollbooth, and why it hasn’t been made into a live-action movie.

My first comment came from a book review page called Books and Boston, which hasn’t been updated since 2012. My first post like came later, from a blog called Storytelling Nomad, which hasn’t been updated since 2014.

Starting a blog seems easy; keeping one going is bloody difficult. There have been times when I’ve felt like giving up; times when I’ve not felt like writing. There have been great periods of time where I failed to post anything at all.

Sometimes I could barely drag myself out of bed, but I kept at it.

But ultimately I keep coming back to it. I continue to write, for better or for worse. And there are days (frequently, as it happens) when I wonder—why? Why do I do it?

This blog was created to catalogue my first attempt at a novel, The Redemption of Erâth. I started posting weekly chapters in early 2012; by the end of the book, six months later, I had a fair number of followers and likes. It seemed I was on to something. Of course, I couldn’t just post excerpts from my book; a blog has to encompass more than that, it has to convey the thoughts and emotions of the blogger.

I continued writing ‘thoughts of the week’. I started (and abandoned) many subthreads, such as The Devil’s Details and Tales of Despair. For a very long period of time, I used my blog to express my own despair and disillusionment, an outlet for my depression. I connected with the WordPress community, making (and losing) some dear friends. Many have mental health issues that far outweigh my own. I commiserated, and lost myself in the bleak numbness of depression.

But I kept on writing. Sometimes I could barely drag myself out of bed, but I kept at it. Aside from my books, I estimate I’ve written another two novels’ worth on here, about 200,000 words. It’s been one the greatest struggles of my life. Sometimes I was rewarded: twice I was nominated for WordPress’ ‘Freshly Pressed’ (now ‘Discover‘), and gained a great deal of followers because of it. Sometimes I wasn’t; I’ve spent hours on posts that didn’t garner a single like.

But there is something deeply meaningful to me in continuing to write, and to write for the people who wish to read: every one of you. I can’t know how many of you will see this post or read it in its entirety, but for everyone who does I want to say, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would not, could not have carried on for so long without knowing you were reading, without your support, without your likes and comments.

I feel this is reflected in my books, as well. My novels are a communication, a way of expressing the inner torment I’ve lived with most of my life. And the validation of a like, or a review, is an ultimate reward. I’ve written three long novels now, and have four more planned. With the pace I’ve managed so far, I’ll release the final book in the Redemption of Erâth series sometime in 2023. That’s a long time from now.

How do I keep the vision alive? How do I remember what I started for, and what compels me to continue? I’m not sure if I know the answer. I’m not famous; I’m not rich. I’m not renowned for my fantasy or my writing. But I have three books’ proof that the impossible is possible, and I still have, burning in my mind, the one scene that culminates the entirety of the Redemption of Erâth series. I know how it ends, and I want to see that end.

And I will continue. I will carry on. With any luck, I’ll still be blogging here on WordPress in six years’ time. I hope to be. Because knowing that there is even one person out there in the world who is hearing my thoughts, reading my words, and perhaps—just perhaps—deriving some meaning of their own from it, is all I could ever ask for.

Thought of the Week: Little Guilt and Regret

Feelings are becoming alien to me, dear readers.

I feel (pardon the irony) like I have been without emotion for many, many months now. This isn’t to say I’m flat or numb, because I’m not. But can you imagine laughing and not feeling happy? Crying, and not feeling sad? Shouting, and not feeling angry?

I’ve been suffering through an extended depression since November last year, when my motivation and reason for living vanished without a trace. All progress on The Redemption of Erâth ceased; I stopped doing the dishes, I stopped washing clothes, or even myself…every day became a struggle to find a reason to get out of bed, and if I did I would spend the remainder of the day finding ways to get back into it.

 

…there are no connections, nothing to root me and say, “This has meaning.”

 

I’m not out of this depression yet – the bed still calls beckoningly – but my motivation is back (somewhat). I rose from the depths of nothing to a point where I could at least force myself to take the next step and tell my publisher to look into re-editing the manuscript for Consolation; this led to further work on Exile, on which I managed to progress five chapters in the past week and half – an unprecedented level of productivity for me. That’s 30,000 words in 10 days.

With Little Satis’ broken leg, I’ve also been forced back into household chores that I had all but abandoned, and I’m finding it…if not enjoyable, then at least tolerable. I have to do the dishes in spurts to get them done, and I still fail to do the laundry on a regular basis; my office is a disaster of strewn clothes (clean and dirty), tea mugs and coffee cups, dust, crumbs and a suitcase, half unpacked from six months ago. The chore of cleaning is beyond me.

The pile grows ever taller…

The pile grows ever taller…

But there is one thing that remains constant throughout all of this, whether its when loading the dishwasher, lying in bed thinking about not cleaning or writing emotional scenes in The Redemption of Erâth: I feel nothing. It’s as though I’m simply moving through existence, seeing and observing (or sometimes failing to observe) the things around me, but there are no connections, nothing to root me and say, “This has meaning.”

The funny thing is, it isn’t an entirely unpleasant way to live. When you can’t feel, there’s virtually no stress, no worry; none of the bad things in life have any real meaning. They just are. If that comes at the price of the good things in life, then…so be it.

Of course, occasionally the odd sensation will flare up momentarily. For example, the guilt that stopped me from choosing a loaf of bread when I knew Mrs. Satis was paying for the shopping (she can’t eat wheat). This little, odd fleeting feeling that buying that bread would be a ‘bad’ thing to do.

For the most part, though, there is precious little guilt and regret. Little stress, little worry, little sadness.

And little happiness, too.

What would you trade?

 

Featured image adapted from http://www.drdavewhite.com/2013/10/30/godly-sorrow-vs-worldly-guilt/.

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