Creativity, Mental Health, and Self-Development

Being a medical professional by background, and one taught to look at the holistic picture, I find it fascinating to look at how the different facets of our lives impact one another. One issue that is near to my heart is that of mental illness in creative types, having suffered from anxiety and depression... and an inate need to CREATE for most of my life. Below is an essay I wrote on the topic.

If you are interested in the interplay of mental health and creativity, and how healing yourself can impact your work, please check out my non-fiction book Love Letters To Myself, created from a journal I used while healing.

"Writing is sharing a new world and new point of view with your readers. It is examining the moral dilemmas, dark secrets, hidden desires and all the stuff that makes us who we are and shapes our view of the world around us. It is escape when times are hard. It is magic and wonder and a really awesome gig. But it is more than that.

I believe being a writer is closely associated with personal growth and development. For me, writing has become intertwined with my psychology, with healing old dysfunction and stepping into that beautiful, messy person that is me. I think that I have a very valuable perspective to share with the writing community. As big and wonderful as the dream of becoming a professional writer is, there should always be a greater purpose.

Artistic types have a sordid history with self-destructive behavior. We have an innate sensitivity to the world that leads writers to be able to feel deeply, to absorb the world around us and create. However, this same sensitivity also makes us more susceptible to everything around us. It can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dysfunctional coping patterns, anything from mild character quirks to disabling issues. I think on some level we feel attached to this. We learn to turn darkness, pain, and difficult stuff into something creative and beautiful on the page, and therefore some part of us thinks we need that pain to be able to create. But there are better ways to access that well of emotion and creativity inside us.

I suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, from childhood up through my early thirties. Writing often provided a catharsis for me, a place to release pent up emotions and a place to create escape in fantasy worlds and magic. I started writing seriously in my mid-twenties and continued to work on developing my craft through practice, critique groups and classes. My first child was born and suffered diagnosis and treatment of chronic, life threatening conditions twice in her first seven years of life. I struggled in a career I hated. My anxiety peaked to a level that was terrifying. Writing kept me alive.

But my writing didn’t go anywhere. I would submit to agents and editors and continuously get requests and ultimately denials saying things like “your writing skills are really good. Don’t stop writing,” even as I was rejected. Then something happened. I began to study self-actualization and self-development work. I spent time working on my inner psychology, self-confidence, and self-esteem. The anxiety gradually stopped. The depression was cured—something I never thought possible. I didn’t have to write just to make it through another day.

It was terrifying.

Because what if that meant I would never write again? What if that edge of angsty cynicism was what let me be able to create? What if once that was gone I never had a good idea again?
But I kept on going despite the fear—because that’s what writers do, right? We just keep trying.
What I would love to share with people is how much taking care of myself and maintaining a ritual of active self-care and self-improvement has improved my ability to write. Everything comes easier now. Ideas flow without effort, my endurance for writing has increased along with my word count, and I have more patience for the process. But what’s more, I am still able to write the emotional stuff, the painful and dirty stuff that comes along with the beautiful and good. However now I find I am able write with a level of truth, clarity and bravery that was never possible before.

I think I could offer some valuable perspective to aspiring writers on how to become a better writer while becoming a stronger version of yourself along the way. I believe that the creativity in us is intimately linked to our belief in ourselves. To create beautiful art, we need to be able to work from a place of unshakable confidence in ourselves, our purpose, and our place in the world. Then, we can create without limits. And the world needs more of that."

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your musings :)