I’ve Lost All Sense of Curiosity

As my depression worsens daily into something just short of crippling, I find myself falling back hard into old patterns, habits and comforts, in a vain effort to stop myself from collapsing into bed and simply not getting up again. I rewatch old episodes of South Park and Futurama endlessly, fail to create anything meaningful – either in writing or in music – and more or less just barely scrape through each day without ever discovering or experiencing anything new.

The hard part about this is that, when I really think about it, I don’t want to experience anything new. It all just … bores me. It isn’t interesting, doesn’t feel worth it, and I find little to no joy in anything I’m not already intimately familiar with. At first I thought perhaps this was just the depression talking, but when I think longer about it, I realize that I’ve been this way for years.

There was a time when I looked forward to new things – really looked forward to them. New albums from my favorite artists, new books from my favorite authors, new movies and TV shows to watch and experience. I remember being really excited to see new episodes of Dexter back when it was first airing, and buying up Stephen King books the day they were released.

Then, I slowly started waiting to experience new things. I waited to listen to the new Nightwish album for a good long time, although I finally got around to it. I delayed and delayed watching Game of Thrones until social media all but ruined it (well, the show writers kind of did it first).

And eventually, I just sort of … stopped experiencing anything new altogether. I haven’t listened to Iron Maiden’s new album, despite it getting great reviews. I haven’t watched Black Widow or any new movie in ages. I haven’t read a book in years. And the worst part is, I really just don’t want to.

When I try, I fail. I watched one episode of Game of Thrones, and just wasn’t invested. I watched the first episode of Amazon’s new show Invincible, and it was really good – but I just don’t care to watch more. I’ve tried and failed to read a dozen or more books.

And when I really break it down, I feel like it comes down to a total lack of curiosity. I just don’t care about things. I don’t care about the world, or the things in it, or the things that are meant to entertain me and take my mind off the things that would otherwise consume me.

I just exist, basically.

I exist, and I’m completely uncurious about anything and everything in the world around me. Nothing piques my interest; nothing seems worth doing or experiencing. And despite the fact that I can barely make it through each day at the moment, I think this has been building for years, or even decades, to the point where now my whole life seems like a meaningless husk, something devoid of any joy or interest.

This scares me, really, because for a long time the only thing that really kept me going, kept me motivated – even in the darkest of times when all I could think about was some kind of escape, I always stayed the course for the idea that, if I died today, I might miss experiencing something truly wonderful that was yet to come. But if there’s nothing that excites me at all anymore – if I just don’t care about anything new, no matter who or what creates it – then what is going to keep me alive? What’s even the point?

My depression is rapidly worsening, and the one thing that usually keeps me afloat is gone. What will happen if the day comes – and I fear it will – when I can’t get out of bed? What will happen when I can’t bear to breathe another breath? What will happen when death becomes more appealing than life?

I once read somewhere that people who ideate about suicide don’t necessarily want to die; they just want their life as it is to be over. The concept encourages positivity, and the belief in change. But what if you don’t believe in that change at all? What if the idea of something new, something different, is as equally abhorrent as what you’re stuck with at the moment? What if death seems appropriate, not because you don’t want to live, but because there’s nothing left to live for?

I realize I’m navigating down a dark path here, and this feeling of dismal, bleak numbness may too pass, but at the moment all I really want to do is curl up and go to sleep. Preferably for a very, very long time.

The “Other” Experience: Representing Diversity

I came across a now-deleted post on Reddit the other day, entitled simply, “The Trans Experience”. By the time I clicked on it, the original post had already been removed, but there was a reply that, I think, beautifully encapsulated the struggle some authors face when trying to include diverse perspectives and representations in their work, and what to do – and what not to do – when doing so. There’s a part of me that wishes the comment had been its own post, because it really made a lot of sense.

The comment was quite long, but in summary, it more or less posits the following: do include trans characters in your books; do not attempt to write the ‘trans experience’. Over the course of several paragraphs, the commenter, a stated trans man, quite eloquently points out that diversity and representation of trans people is sorely needed in literature, but when a cis-gendered person tries to write a novel about being trans, and the experience thereof, they are – even if inadvertently – causing more harm than good to trans authors and the trans community. There are elements of being trans that are difficult, if not impossible, for a cis person to truly comprehend, and therefore put across correctly in a story. Instead, the author points out that you should instead focus on aspects of their personalities that are universal – happiness, sadness, life and death – and have the fact that they are trans as more incidental.

Whilst this is a great perspective specific to the context of the trans community, it can easily be widened to incorporate writing about any community the author is not necessarily a part of. I think many authors are very much aware that there is a distinct lack of representation in literature, with what seems to be the vast majority of stories focusing on straight, white male protagonists, but the answer isn’t to try and overcome this by writing stories about the experience of those other groups. A white author might recognize the deficit of black characters, but trying to write a black character from the perspective of their struggles as a black person could go disastrously awry. No white person can ever truly know what it’s like to be black, and it would be incredibly difficult to come across as authentic and genuine.

When I started writing The Redemption of Erâth, I was heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings, which, for all its fame and importance, is hardly the most inclusive of novels. I also wanted to write characters my then-young son could identify with, so I chose – perhaps subconsciously, even – to make the main protagonists young white males (well, I don’t specify their skin color necessarily, but that’s what I had in mind). I even killed off the only important female character as a plot device to kick off the rest of the series. But as I continued writing, I realized that this didn’t have to be the limit of the characters, and I started introducing far more diverse characters, including stronger female characters, different ethnicities, and even ages.

Of course, The Redemption of Erâth is high fantasy, and there are arguably only the limits of my imagination when it comes to the characters that appear within it. When it comes to my young adult/contemporary fiction that I write under my real name, I found myself in a different boat altogether: my first novel deals with teenage depression from the perspective of a young woman, which is – as a man – a perspective I have limited experience with. In writing from a female perspective, it was tempting to try and shove in as many ‘female’-centric characteristics as possible: dealing with boys, dating, periods, etc. But I soon realized that this kind of writing came off as ‘man tries to write women, fails successfully’.

Instead, I found myself following the above Redditor’s advice years before I ever saw it, and focusing instead on the emotional and human characteristics that are universal to all people: depression, sadness, death and loss, and all the things that affect all humans equally. When I had several female friends beta-read it, I specifically wanted them to see if it felt authentic from a female perspective, and to my astonishment, they universally said ‘yes’.

I took this concept further with my second novel in this genre, featuring both gay and black characters; again, not because I’m trying to force diversity into my stories, but because that’s who these characters are – how they appeared to me, and what their personalities were crying out to me to be. And again, I found myself wanting to write forced passages on racism, sexism and misconstrued sexual identity, and I had to stop myself. I don’t know anything about those concepts, except perhaps as the subconscious perpetrator of racist and sexist ideologies (I don’t think of myself as racist, but I know I’ve definitely said and done racist things without realizing it), so I tried hard to focus on the aspects of being human that transcend sexuality, race, and gender.

I have yet to see how successful this approach is, as this second novel is yet to be published, but I think it’s allowed me to write a story that deals with tragedy, love and loss from the perspective of people, rather than ‘black’ or ‘white’ or any other kind of separator of humankind. And if it turns out successful (to be determined by my readers, of course), then I would like to think that this could be a valid way of writing representation overall.

I think the lesson here is that we can all do better at representing minorities and traditionally unrepresented communities in our writing, and it doesn’t have to be in a way that singles them out – in fact, it’s probably better to write in these characters in an inclusive manner, to make them a part of the story and therefore a part of the world, just as they are in real life. I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, or black, or trans, but I do know that if I was, I would want the same acceptance that I already enjoy as a straight white male. It isn’t fair that there are entire groups of people who are ostracized and isolated because of some characteristic that they don’t even have control over, and I think the world – both in literature and in real life – needs more acceptance, rather than more divisiveness.

What are some of the best instances of minority representation you’ve seen from non-minority authors? Are there examples that make you grind your teeth at how stereotyped the characters are (Stephen King, I’m looking at you)? Let me know in the comments!