Thursday, December 23, 2010
…I have five new stories up: "Orchid" at Apollo's Lyre, "A Competitive Nature" at Troubadour 21, "Turbulence" at 52/250 A Year of Flash, "Straight" at Cricket Online Review and "The Sky, The Sky, The Wide Open Sky" also at Cricket Online Review. All five are included here under "Words In Print."
…Today I wrote poetry, buckets and pails of words and syllables, consonant, vowels, alliteration and loose intentions. It was fun. I was on a roll and ended with 21 poems. I tried to write half of them from a woman's perspective, in a female's voice, because I found a slew of cool literary sites that cotton only to women's issues. I'm going to send some out as soon as I finish posting.
…I like this: " In writing, every word must earn it's place. The title is the kidnapping element." Vanessa Debbie
…My Dad once said, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." I know he didn't create that expression, but I find myself thinking about that phrase whenever I struggle, like during a marathon or getting a story rejected, trying to find an agent. I like to do things that not many people can do. It probably has to do with conceit and low self-esteem, but it's the challenging stuff I find most fulfilling.
..Two more days until Christmas. I'm ready for it. I wish it would snow. There's something serene and magical about the beauty of a good snowfall.
…Writing gets lonely. I don't mind being alone, but it's more the sense of detachment and distance that is disconcerting. I'd better watch out….
...A writer friend posted this a week ago:
"Writers 'at greater risk of depression', survey finds
US health website lists professions in which people are most likely to be depressed and puts authors in top 10
• guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 December 2010 17.00 GMT
• Article history
Writers suffer ... Virginia Woolf. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images
Writing is one of the top 10 professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression, with men particularly at risk from the illness, according to US website health.com.
The site puts artists and writers among the most vulnerable of professionals, alongside other "at risk" jobs including care workers, teachers, social workers, maintenance staff and salespeople.
Irregular pay and isolation contribute to the propensity for writers to succumb to depression, says the site, with nearly 7% of male artists and writers likely to suffer a major episode of the illness.
Novelist Simon Brett, who has acknowledged his own struggles with depression, agreed with the tenor of the findings, citing writer suicides including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton and Arthur Koestler.
"You spend long hours sitting on your own," he said. "Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable." Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly, Brett added, saying: "Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more."
And like everyone else, writers are subject to the current economic woes. "It has always been an insecure profession, and now advances are spiralling downwards and a lot of midlist authors have been dropped by their publishers," said Brett.
There are two points in the novel-writing cycle when authors are particularly vulnerable, he believes. "Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.
"The other point is two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through a novel, when almost all writers get what I call the 'three-quarters sag', when the only thing you like less about what you've written so far is the ideas you have for finishing the book. My books are written quite quickly, so it only lasts a week or two, but for people who spend two years writing, it can take months."
Many writers, including Stephanie Merritt, Gwyneth Lewis and Sally Brampton have articulated their experiences of depression in personal memoirs, with novelist Marian Keyes revealing a serious bout of the illness to fans on her website earlier this year. "The medical department call it 'a major depressive episode', but I've been knocked sideways by a multitude of feelings, not just depression, but agitation, anxiety, terror, panic, grief, desperation, despair and an almost irresistible desire to be dead and it's gone on for a very long time," Keyes wrote. "Every day for six solid months I've had to try really hard to stay alive."
But poet Lewis, who explored the subject in her book Sunbathing In The Rain, said that her research while a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard had suggested different findings.
"I'd argue the opposite, that given that writers do spend a lot of time on their own, and that the worldly rewards for poetry are minuscule, and given that most of the time you don't know whether what you are doing is any good, it's amazing that writers don't suffer more," she said, describing poets as "the SAS of the depression gang", willingly taking themselves into difficult terrain for their work.
But, she said, in some ways, the art itself helps you through the minefield. "There is something in the principles of art that is not depressive, that's so joyful," Lewis said. And she added that the idea that you have to suffer to produce art is nonsense: "You have to be well. If you're properly clinically depressed, you can't think about rhyme."