I was going to choose something else for Blogmas today, but then an article did the rounds on Facebook, and I’m sufficiently grumpy from working three full-time jobs that I’d like to expend my fury on it, if you don’t mind. Contains talk of mental health and copious swearing, but you knew that, right?
So here’s the piece in question, ostensibly about research that proves writers are mentally ill. And it’s just so, so much shit, I don’t know where to begin. But let’s try, shall we?
The common theory for why writers are often depressed is rather basic: writers think a lot and people who think a lot tend to be unhappy. Add to that long periods of isolation and the high levels of narcissism that draws someone to a career like writing, and it seems obvious why they might not be the happiest bunch.
Good grief, you’d better pass the news onto all the seemingly balanced intellectuals whose brains are about to spontaneously short-circuit if they think too hard. And as for narcissism, don’t worry – that gets ejected from your psyche with the first critique-based kick in the bollocks.
why writers, by and large, are not only depressed people but also awful lovers
Essentially, their stream of ideas is always running — the tap does not shut off — and, as a result, creative people show schizophrenic, borderline manic-depressive tendencies
I’ll agree with the whole ‘idea tap is always running’ thing, certainly. But while there are indeed many prolific writers and creatives with mental health issues (like the wonderful Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan), it’s incredibly harmful to throw generalisations like this around. Especially in a world with media that leap on any MH aspect of, say, a crime. Hey, remember that US teacher arrested for writing a novel about a school massacre? Let’s not go down that path.
Writing, editing, and revising also requires are [sic] near obsession with self-criticism, the leading quality for depressed patients.
First, hire a proper fucking copyeditor. My rates are reasonable. And by the way, my obsession with correctness is a part of my job and sweet fuck-all to do with the fact that I have had OCD from the age of five. Which was before I started writing professionally, fact fans.
“One of the most important qualities [of depression] is persistence,” said Andreasen.
One of the most important qualities of a writer is persistence. Fixed that for you, pal.
biographers have noted that he spent months pouring [sic] over drafts
Jesus tittyfucking Christ, do you get paid for basic pour/pore errors? Can I suggest an alternative career, like slamming your head repeatedly in a door until the stupid stops?
This need for control often translates to real life too, and it comes at the expense of the feelings and wishes of nearly everyone around them. Writers are often such terrible lovers because they treat real people as characters, malleable and at their authorial will.
Here’s the thing. Writers, like any other people, can be colossal arseholes. I’ve met some of them. THIS IS NOT GROUNDBREAKING. To say that writers shape those around them to the extent that lovers get a bit disappointed is the most ridiculous bit of sub-tabloid tat.
As for the other relationship-destroyer — writers’ infamous penchant for alcohol — Gopnik postulates, “Writing is work in which the balance necessary to a sane life of physical and symbolic work has been wrested right out of plumb, or proportion, and alcohol is (wrongly) believed to rebalance it.
Straw poll: do you, as a writer, feel that your life balance has been ‘wrested right out of plumb’? Are you often at the bottom of a gin bottle? After reading this horseshit, do you, like me, feel like that gin right now?
Trying to balance vice, borderline mental illness, and a disregard for the real world in favor of fictitious ones is perhaps a noble but Sisyphusian [sic] act for many writers. Try as they might, the greatest creatives in history have too much neuroscience working against them, too many ideas fluttering around their minds.
Yeah, you got me there. Every day, I get up and just collapse under the sheer weight of neuroscience, because I totally haven’t developed ways to cope with my MH quirks over the decades and still manage to produce decent fiction. Writers, know your limits!
Look, seriously: this rhetoric is poisonous. The whole ‘lol crazy writers’ trope is a tired one. It’s like me saying ‘all engineers are autistics with crap social skills’, which would be a huge disservice and slap in the face to the immensely talented folk I work with every day. How about we just treat writers as people, with a job like any other, and not sling sub-GCSE tripe like this around the interwebs?
RANT OVER. ❤