Mental illness and writing characters


When I write my fiction, it’s easy to get inside the characters’ heads, coming from my perspective. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and this can translate quite handily when I build a character. Hey, write what you know.

As a writer, I take on the form of omniscient narrator, master storyteller. That means that I have complete control over what my characters think and do. I almost write from a position of envy, because if I wanted to, I could completely take away a character’s mental illness. That would damage the narrative, but it is interesting to contemplate.

It gives a writer a sense of power to have complete control over these characters that they have created. In a way, I see it as projecting my desire to have control over my own head. Which is another thing entirely.

I think every writer will, at some level, transpose some of their own illness, or quirkiness, into their characters. This makes them more relatable, more believable. I’m not saying that every writer out there is mentally ill, but you can probably see it from where they’re standing. That’s what makes us all artists. Our lovable quirkiness.

But this is the realm of my fiction. In the end, it is medical treatment, and my profound faith in a higher power, that things can and are improving. Now if I could just finish the damn novel.

I love David Lynch, but he’s wrong

Let me just say I’m a big fan of David Lynch. His unique creativity is a standout in pop culture, and I loved Twin Peaks, at least the first two seasons.

Lynch wrote a book called Catching the Big Fish, which I reach recently, about transcendental meditation. It’s a good read, and, indeed, the therapy might be good for some people seeking relief from mental illness.

I took umbrage with part of the book. In it, he tells a story, possibly apocryphal, about going to see a psychiatrist. (David Lynch has mental illness problems? Who knew?) Anyway, Lynch asks the doctor if the treatment could damage his creativity. The doctor replies there’s a chance it could. Lynch shakes the man’s hand, refuses the treatment, and moves on.

What absolute crap. This story is as full of horseshit as Twin Peaks season 3. No doctor would ever say that, and besides, it’s just not true. Treating your mental illness, by whatever means, will NOT damage your creativity. I have been in a great recovery for some time now, and I’ve never written so much, nor have I enjoyed it so much.

I guess my bottom line is, don’t listen to the people who tell you that mental illness treatment will damage you. It will not. The goal is to make you better. Are there side effects to medications? Sure, but they sure as sugar don’t damage your creativity. And it beats drowning in a living hell.

Maybe I’m just bitter about Twin Peaks season 3. Just my thoughts.


Writing and Depression


What I wanted to write about today is writing and depression. Specifically, writing for depression and writing with depression.

There is no question that, in the treatment of depression, that writing is an invaluable tool. I myself have used it countless times, and in fact, my therapist has me keep a depression journal. It is empowering to see those roiling, cruel thoughts put down on paper, because then they have substance, a body, if you will, and can be more easily addressed. That mass of chaos that exists in your head, beating you down, has less power when it’s listed on paper. You can then address each one, separate from its nefarious cohorts, and begin to take back your power. This is writing for depression.

Writing with depression is also therapeutic. I have found, in my own fiction writings, in my own stories, that the mental illness can actually be a bit of an asset. Not that it’s fun to have, but it it’s there, why not use it? Anyway, when I write about a character I’ve created who is in an awful predicament, as I often do, I find I can draw upon my own experiences with depression, thus giving the character a deeper soul, a more rich personality. If you are familiar with the dark colors of depression, it’s an easy image to paint. Thus the characters become more human, more believable.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts. I hope everyone is doing well, and is having great success with their writing and/or recovery. See you soon!

An anxious mind writes through the right lens

One of the things my therapist and I have been working on through recovery is seeing the world through a healthy lens. I’ve learned to apply this to my writing as well.

The mind is constantly receiving information, and our consciousness routinely files it under ‘good’ or bad.’ One of the tricks of retraining an anxious mind is to change the lens, the filter, that sees the world as a negative place, and instead looking at the world through a positive lens. If you spill the coffee on the counter, you could look at as a catastrophe. Or, you could look at it as chance to clean the counter, which needed it anyway. It’s not easy to do, but it can really help an anxious or depressed mind. My example is pedestrian, but it applies to the larger things in life, as well.

So too with writing. Once you’ve written something, and you look back on it, in my case, one of the first tendencies is to say: what a bunch of crap! Or, switching the lens, you can say: Okay, this needs work, but I know if I change this, and alter this, this piece just might work. It is not an easy process, and, indeed, it is what the entire re-write endeavor is all about, but it is crucial.

Anyway, that’s just one trick that’s helped me quite a bit. Switch the lens. The world will be a better place. I hope everybody’s well!


Writing and Anxiety


Let’s talk about mental illness and writing. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for my entire life. It can be a long, hard struggle. Recently, my anxiety flared up so much that I had to take some time off from work. Living with mental illness is still a stigma in society, so I thought I would open up about it, get the conversation going.

Anxiety is a relentless disease, one that takes over your entire soul. However, in my case, I have been extremely fortunate, working with the right psychiatrist and the right psychologist. With the right combination of medication and therapy, this is the happiest I have been in a very long time. The disorder is currently in remission.

I wanted to talk about how this relates to my writing. When one has a mental disorder, it is crucial to have a creative, artistic outlet for that energy, that emotion, that rage, to find a new home. For me, that outlet has been writing. When you have an anxious mind, as I do, I have found that burying myself into a fictional world that I create, with characters that I control, brings immense satisfaction to an anxious mind. In the past few months, I have done the most writing I have ever done, and I continue to do so. It can be any art form; painting, dance, music, and the aforementioned writing. Just so long as one with a mental disorder has that outlet.

My recovery has allowed me to truly express myself with some great(?) works of fiction, that I will soon share with the world. And I really, really, want to drive home the point that if you have a mental disorder, you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed of it. If people think you’re crazy, fuck them. There is hope, help, and the chance for recovery. I am living proof.

My latest novel has an elephant with a minigun. Just throwing that out there.

Bye for now, hope everybody’s well!

Writing and Music

thAnybody else out there put on the headphones and listen to music when they write? Sometimes I write in silence, but oftentimes I like to kick out the jams when I’m typing away. I guess it depends on the flow. Anyway, sometimes I try and match the music with the theme of the scene I’m writing, other times I just have the music on to keep me motivated. Depends on the mood, and all that. Anyway, this is what I’ve been listening to lately while I write:

Brothers in Arms, Fury Road soundtrack (freaking epic!)

Sisters of Mercy, Temple of Love:

Ennio Morricone, On Earth As It Is In Heaven:

Angelo Badalamenti, Twin Peaks theme:

Billy Idol, Prodigal Blues:

Steve Earle, Copperhead Road:

Led Zeppelin, Kashmir:

The Eagles, Journey of the Sorcerer:

Lady Gaga, Poker Face (yes, yes, I know):

Ministry, Worm:

Anyway, that’s just a sample of what I’ve been cycling through while I write. Anybody else? Any thoughts?

Bye for now.



Book Review: City of the Beasts

Okay, so I’m not the best at reviewing books, but here goes: I recently read Isabel Allende’s City of Beasts, a young adult novel. It’s about a young man who finds himself embroiled in the mysteries and perils of the Amazon rainforest.

To be honest, I found the whole book to be contrived, overdone and repetitive. Just my opinion.

In the first chapter, the young protagonist, Alex Cold, gets so mad that his mother has cancer that he smashes everything in his room. I guess this is his saying goodbye to the material world of America before discovering the spiritual world of the Amazon. Because, you know, that’s so deep.

In the next chapter, Alex is sent to live with his eccentric, world-exploring (how convenient) Grandmother who lives in New York City. Allende’s hatred of the Big Apple just freaking oozes from the pages. She must be from Boston or something.

The rest of the book finds Alex in the Amazon, accompanying his Grandmother on a trip to find the mysterious tribe of The People of The Mist. They are to be careful of a monstrous, bigfoot like entity that lives in the jungle, a creature known as The Beast. I love cryptozoology, and there is no legend of a bigfoot-like creature in the Amazon. If somebody can wiki me otherwise, please do.

Eventually, Alex is kidnapped by The People of the Mist. He instantly becomes one of the tribe, and starts working with them. Just like that. No segue at all.

Alex also carries his grandfather’s flute, which he uses to calm the wild animals, the aforementioned Beast, and even a gigantic albino bat. Seriously.

There’s also a shaman who makes an appearance from time to time, whenever a Deus Ex Shaman is needed. To tell you the truth, the magic and spirituality portrayed in the book gets so muddled, it’s hard to tell if you’re reading Stand By Me or Harry Potter.

I did like the ending, however. Allende brings it to a nice close. You just have to wade through a bunch of what-the? to get there. Anyway, just my opinion.


%d bloggers like this: