Like many people, I don’t subscribe to many magazines. I hate having to recycle them when I’m done as I always feel guilty throwing away good writing. But one enjoys a special place in my mailbox: The Sun.
It’s a bit like A Prairie Home Companion in print, but darker. As they say on their About page, “words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human.”
This month’s issue included an interview with Tim Farrington, who discusses the connection between creativity and depression. I found this topic fascinating because for many years I was convinced my best work came when I was down and out, or at least exceedingly tired (often both).
The interviewer begins by listing some sobering statistics from a 1995 Scientific American article: artists experience up to eighteen times the rate of suicide seen in the general population, eight to ten times the rate of depression…
But this doesn’t ring true for me. I know many writers and artists, and while they are soulful (an endearing term for incredibly empathetic), they’re not necessarily more depressed than the scientists and engineers in my life. They’re just better at expressing their feelings. As Farrington says in the article:
An artist’s lack of psychic balance is immediately visible in his or her work. If you lose your balance on a high wire, people notice. If you lose your balance at ground level, you may stumble or reel, but you can conceal it.
I realized I didn’t need to be depressed in order to write when my circumstances in life (or my appreciation of my circumstances) turned around, and the words kept coming. A bit like leaping off a cliff and discovering a hidden ledge.
But it may be fair to say that in order to be a good writer, one must have been depressed at some point. That’s where the empathy springs from. Or as one of the quotes in the Sunbeams section of the magazine says:
Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail. Theodore Dreiser
I’m grateful for the misery that produces the honey of writing, and for the magazine that reminds me of it. As The Beatles remind us, “It’s all right…”
Photo courtesy of Luis Argerich on Flikr