Writing & Depression

I’ve wanted to be a writer for my whole life. And here I am, 55, and only a little bit closer to that moniker than I was 20 years ago. But I am a little closer and that’s what counts. I’ve given myself 30 days to write on Medium everyday. Something from that week has to get published on Friday. I will allow myself one day of editing in the week — and maybe a day of research. I would like the piece to be a little interesting and fact based. Maybe after 30 days, I will feel even a little closer to being a writer. A good writer.

I have to say that in the last few weeks of reading Medium articles, my desire to become a writer has weakened. Maybe you have read the same articles that I have and had the same concerns. John Westerberg, one of my favorites, has repeatedly written about his depression. There was another piece I read today, with the same subject. This one was so severe that his family had to help him out of the deep hole over several years. I can find more examples, but that isn’t really the point. What I want to know is which came first, the writing or the depression? And more importantly, do I have to go through that in order to be a decent writer?

I love to read, and being the “oooh, look at that shiny article that I must read” type while web surfing for my job, I read a lot online. There are lots of blogs to read; food, travel, style, parenting. They are fine to read, and the authors can put out copious amounts of content. Impressive really — they work hard. I’m not sure however, how good the writing is. See the subjectivity monster pop up. There are lots of writers, but how many are good writers? If you are a blogger and writing new content every day/week whatever, are you writing to be good or writing to sell? And if you’re writing to sell, does it lead to depression because you know the stuff isn’t as good as you want it to be? Is that what leads the writer to the sad? If so, I’d rather not get on that track. But it would be great to get paid to write. Maybe it is worth the risk.

Other great writers of yesterday were depressed. Take Carroll, Plath, Tolstoy, Hemmingway as examples. It is unlikely that my writing would ever be at that high level, but why not try? If not aspiring to be a great, can I avoid the deep dark? Is the possible plunge worth trying to be an amazing? I’ve got a pretty strong constitution, so I think I can be great and not depressed. Maybe a pain in the ass, but who isn’t at one time in their lives? I wonder, do creatives deserve to be bigger pains than others. And if you’re a creative that makes amazing art, do you get to be the biggest pains? I think that doctors already get that prize, deserving or not. Lawyers come in second. Where do the creatives place? Sorry, shiny red ball and I digress.

And what about the depression. Are the doctors and lawyers just as depressed as the writers but don’t write about it, because they’re busy fixing people (making some sick, too)or defending (prosecuting, too) and don’t strive to write about their inner conflicts.

I don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I thought about law somewhere back in the early years. Then I took some law courses at school and found out that no, I would not like to be a lawyer*. A writer though, a good writer without depression, that is what I would really like to be when I grow up. So at 55, I give myself 30 days to see if I can get a little closer to my goal of being a writer, a good writer.

One day down, Susie

*I believe that Jon Westerberg mentioned his law school experience. I don’t think that time spent helped with his depression.