Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

Crippled, Demented, Or Crushed: Still, I Will Create

In a recent perusal of old journal entries, I once again ran across a poetic gem entitled Air and Light and Time and Space by Charles Bukowski (who was born in Germany, I learned via Wikipedia article). The poem describes the mindset of so many people who want to be creative — but then never “get around to” doing anything about it. Bukowski gives a definitive answer to what I’m calling “that self-delusional procrastination.”

You can Google the poem in its entirety elsewhere…but what I’m interested in right now is this part of Bukowski’s answer:

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
or
…in a small room with 3 children
…you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
away,
you’re going to create blind
crippled
demented…

…baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it…

I feel as though I’ve spent most of my life in a desperate search for air and light and time and space. Most of the time, I haven’t even been aware of what I was seeking…but now, I look back at certain hard times in my life, and I find myself nodding in wry understanding. “Oh. I see now. That’s what that was.”

Those were the times I was most depressed. Those were the times I questioned my inherent worth the most. Those were the times nothing I attempted in life seemed to work out. Those were the times my relationships suffered the most. It all happened during those periods in my life when, for whatever reason, I suppressed my creativity because I felt as though I didn’t have the time, air, space, right to be creative.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts (and get deeper into the gritty tale of how I once believed and felt I had no right to be creative), but for now, I’m learning a new conviction: that Bukowski is oh so very right. It’s a lie that my situation has to change before I can be creative. I will make stuff. I will put stuff into this world that didn’t exist in that form before I made it. It’s what I’m created to do: to create. Even at my worst moments, when the will isn’t there, the compulsion is too strong to ignore.

I’ll create if I’m crippled. I’ll create if I’m demented. (This might already have happened.) I’ll create in the tiniest, most cramped space. I’ll create when it’s too dark to see. I can’t help it. I don’t want to help it.

Because the price for ignoring my creative impulse is far too high to pay.