A dangerous profession? Please comment…

Preparing for a discussion on ‘Writing History’

title=”Writing History”>http://www.cityofliterature.com/whats-on-results.aspx?sec=5&pid=23&item=3901 and have just had a thought -provoking (scary?) email from the person chairing the discussion:-

‘History of manic depressive illness among writers is well documented, and Kay Redfield Jamison who is Honorary Professor of English at St Andrews University in her book Touched By Fire, Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, says that while not all writers suffer from mental illness, a higher rate of writers than the normal reading public do suffer from some form of mental illness or addiction. I other words it’s a dangerous profession. So, what do you do to stay sane as writer?’

I’d love to hear from others what you think of this / what you do.
As a first-timer I maybe need to be prepared!

10 thoughts on “A dangerous profession? Please comment…

  1. I have suffered from depression (although not manic depression) off and on from being fifteen years old – before I discovered my love of writing. Now, writing is what I do to self-medicate. I don’t write about being depressed; rather, writing prevents me from feeling quite so awful as I would if I didn’t write. It takes me away from the darkness and helps me impose order on my chaos.

  2. I think I am already pretty sane. My only obsession is with researching the History I need to create a credible world in my books. The definition of sanity is a blurred one. I regard many people in other professions (eg politics, media celebrities) as far more mentally ill than I am. Staying sane is about seeing what is actually in front of you in the real world. As long as a writer can make the transition from their internal world back to the here and now, they’ll be fine. Top tip – meditation helps.

  3. At the risk of sounding very poncey: ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’.
    In other words, the fallacy that because something follows another thing, this was the cause of it. Probably you do not become depressed as a result of being a writer, so it is not a dangerous profession. More likely, a higher number of generally introspective people tend to write and may have a propensity towards depressive illnesses anyway. You could also add that writing is known to have therapeutic qualities so perhaps it all sorts itself out in the end!

    • Glad you translated Barbara!- For folk like me who, being rather a stroppy 12 year old, refused to continue taking Latin despite the school’s efforts to convince me of its usefulness. Like a lot of things I now realise they were probably right, but hey, that’s how we learn best – by making mistakes.

  4. Essentially I agree with Barbara, though if you are depending on writing for a living that may create an exceptional level of stress. As I understand it, people are less prone to mental illness if they feel in control of their lives. Some writers clearly feel this, but there must be many others who don’t. Also, I think good social networks offer some protection. So my guess is that as you don’t live a life of isolation, don’t have all your eggs in one basket, and have got this far through life without a mental illness, you’re probably going to be OK!

  5. Hi Margaret, a good question ;o) The way I stay sane in life generally, and as a writer specifically, is to go for lots of walks. What do I think as reader? The life of the writer seems shrouded in myth, it can be interesting to discover that the reality is very different. Very nice blog. Look forward to talking to you next week when i ask you the question at the discussion itself 🙂

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