Writing from Depression II

A comics blog called The Great Curve picked up on my earlier post about writing from depression and commented as follows:

This reminds me of a book I read recently called Against Depression by Peter D. Kramer. In it, the author talks about research into the biological aspects of depression and critiques the way depression has become a part of our culture. He talks about the popular idea that depression is a gateway to creativity. This viewpoint is that without depression we wouldn’t have the works of Poe, van Gogh, Woolfe, and many other great artists. In addition, there’s the idea that melancholy in art gives the work greater depth. He goes on to explain:

“It is no longer that melancholy leads to heroism. Melancholy is heroism. The challenge is not voyage or battle but inner struggle. The rumination of the depressive, however solipsistic, is deemed admirable. And this value applies even in cases when the interior examination fails due to a lack of moral courage. No matter that the protagonist remains callow and self-deluding. Melancholic sensitivity is noble by definition.” [pages 221-2]

I haven’t read the Kramer book, but this quoted passage seems to mirror my own thinking of late — though I would draw a sharp distinction between melancholy and clinical depression. Melancholy, like any powerful emotion, can indeed inspire powerful art. (And, of course, *awful* art, as well.) Depression, due to its chronic nature, is something very different. It’s not so much a state of heightened despair as it is of blunt resignation. It blurs perception. It deadens every creative instinct. It sets the writer (or painter or sculptor or cartoonist, I presume) at an emotional and intellectual remove from both the world and the work.

There’s nothing even vaguely heroic about depression.

After a while, it’s just colossally boring.

(And yes, I can define “a while”. It’s two minutes and fifty-two seconds — the playing time of “I Am a Rock”.)

6 Responses to “Writing from Depression II”

  1. Alistair Says:

    “And yes, I can define “a while”. It’s two minutes and fifty-two seconds — the playing time of “I Am a Rock”.”

    Mine is Wyclef Jean’s 911(L.P Version 4.21).

  2. Forrest Says:

    Heroes get called heroes by the people they save.

    I can call you a hero if I want to.

  3. Mark Haden Frazer Says:

    I dunno… Morrissey’s made a decent career out of depression for 20 years now…

    Seriously: As someone who has fallen into overwhelmingly deep periods of chronic depression off & on over the years, I gotta agree: There ain’t nothing heroic, noble or romantic about it in any way/shape/form whatsoever.

    It’s like a friend of mine once told me: “If you think for one friggin’ minute that folks are attracted to pale, dark, brooding, depressed guys who dress all in black, you’re a looney! Sure, they all love Angel or Morpheus as entertainment; but in the REAL world, chumps like you are about as attractive to the opposite sex as leprosy.”

    Damned if he wasn’t right, too. 🙂

    My advice: You need to get laid. Repeatedly. Often, even.

    And write more books. Nothing cheers me up more than receiving a bag with a dollar sign on it for making stuff up. 🙂

  4. Forrest Says:


    Belmont Playboys: One Night Of Sin…Live!!

    I keep it in reserve for when the Beach Boys CDs stop working.

  5. Defiant1 Says:

    One of the hardest lessons ever learnt in life is that letting go of something is often the means by which we obtain it. You own Omega the Unknown in a way that no other person will ever own it. You are the creator. You spawned it’s existence. It helped spawn your reputation as a writer. My feeling is that you only frustrate yourself by mulling over the past in this manner. What defines it’s creation to you? The name? Did you create those words? The words have been around for centuries. You borrowed them. If you went back to the first guy who ever thought of the syllables that make up the word “Omega”, he’d probably laugh at this concept that you could ever own it. If not the name, do you own the concept of a child growing up in Hell’s Kitchen? You borrowed that from reality. If you break down the concept of ownership, the facts surface that everything you used in making this creative property was given to you by society and culture. It would be a sad world if first grade teachers tried to tell children that they owned the the written language. We took language from our ancestors. Some say that modern generations pervert language and turn it into something it should not be. Creation is merely dreaming of new combinations. The potential for those combinations was created by God and I don’t believe we truly own anything. We deserve honor and respect for dreaming and creating and making the world a better place, but in all honesty… you have achieved that. I was maybe 9 years old when you wrote Omega The Unknown. I’m quite a bit older now and after some 30 years later I still know who you are and I still have a general concept of your gripes with the old system. I respect the fact that you stand up for what you believe in. I don’t really understand this concept you define as ownership since everything you have in life was enabled before you popped out of the womb. Nothing stops you from taking all the creative concept you had in the 70’s and giving the project a new name.

    Again, you borrowed the words in the title from some caveman thousands of years ago that grunted outy the syllables for the vry first time. How are any of us less respectful of ownership when we are continually borrowing from what life has given us.

    The type of ownership you want to claim could make the world a very scary place. Doctors could own the written procedures that are necessary to save the lives of people you love. They could charge you unaffordable amounts of money to sell you those words. Do you want that kind of model for our lives? Do you want children growing up with a ledger telling them what they owe society because we used copyrighted textbooks to teach them?

    Let me assure you that I know about you, your causes, and your impact on the world. You conciously choose to carry this frustration and you choose to carry the burden. I honestly believe that you have more to gain by letting go and thanking Marvel for the opportunity they gave you to write and create. You’ve actually become somebody in this world. There are thousands of people proclaming “Do you want fries with that?” in a monotone voice. They have no future. Dreaming and putting it to paper is a luxury for them.

    For someone as creative as you have been, I’d like to see you step out of the box you’ve had your thinking trapped inside. If not for the rest of your life, at least for a week or a month.

    Society benefits from “stolen” copyrighted information everyday. You benefit far more from stolen copyrighted information that you could ever earn by owning Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown combined. You sit back on a commuter train not knowing that some metal fabrication company illegally photocopied the manufacturing tolerances to make the product work rather than shelling out 100’s of dollars. The scope is far bigger in this world than a work of fiction. The scope applies to technical data that enables the industrial world to function.

    None of my words are meant to offend and I have no desire to buy the product unless you are the one completing it. Without you story, I consider the character to be a man in a suit who just happens to have the same name.


  6. Defiant1 Says:

    Sorry. I hit the wrong link. That message was atually my response to your stance on Omega the unknown