The Danger of Writer Stereotypes

We’ve all heard the stories about mentally ill writers. They suffer for their art. They are tortured souls. And because of that suffering, they are uniquely qualified to create brilliantly written works. They alone can see the beauty of the human race. Of course, all of that is complete and utter garbage. When I was younger and more naive, I often thought that that was what I was meant to be. I tried to let my mental illness define me as a person. But that’s dangerous.

If you are a writer, take care of yourself. If you are an artist, give yourself some love. It doesn’t matter what kind of creative act you often are involved in, I want you to take care of yourself. Over the years, as I have grappled with my own issues, I have become more aware of the issues that the people around me face.

And I hate that we as a community don’t talk about stuff more. We don’t talk about how depression and writing can work terribly together or how anxiety issues make it hard to focus on getting writing done.

Of course, the issues surrounding our silence and mental illness aren’t just from our community, but from society at large. Mental illness is a huge issue, but because it’s ‘all in our heads,’ fewer people want to take it seriously. And that’s just not okay.

I can’t be the champion that Carrie Fisher was, but I think that my way of honoring her life is to speak out more about mental illness. And the worst places I see it are often in how we treat artists. Edgar Allan Poe is one that people often talk about. His life was just miserable and ended tragically and somehow that makes his art so much more beautiful than the work of people like J. K. Rowling that are alive. Even Rowling’s story of her coming from poverty is something that people talk about so much. But I’m more in love with the work Rowling does today. Her history made her who she is, but it’s what she’s doing right now that has so much more impact. Her work today is great and wonderful and inspired me.

But I digress. When people think about authors and poets, they think of the tragedies of the past. They think about those people that are so well known for their ways. They think that writing is easy as long as you are a tortured and starving artist. But I want writers to speak up about how their lives are positive. How their lives are going well. Don’t back down from talking about the bad days, either. But bring the positive. Talk about the cat that you saw yesterday. Talk about your favorite foods. Be enthusiastic about the new TV show you fell in love with. Talk about everything. Be loud and proud. Be open with your readers.

Writing is about expressing ourselves. Writing is about more than sadness, but sadness is strong and easy to fall back on. It’s equally easy to use hate and anger. But I think all of us can agree that we need a little more happiness to balance it out.

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