Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is there something wrong with you?

Dear Fellow Writer,

Welcome to this week's newsletter. 

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Is there something wrong with you?

Rob Parnell

An article I read this week suggested that writers are somehow more prone to mental illness than 'normal people'.

Suicide rates, bipolar disorders, substance abuse and incidents of clinical depression are all apparently higher in creative types - and this is based on a Swedish scientific survey of over a million people!

Scary stuff.

I came across the article because Chris Ryall, a great thriller writer and one my beloved subscribers, posted it on Facebook. 

To be honest the article kinda annoyed me - because I dispute the premise. 
If you want, you can read it here

Now, I've always thought that 'normal' people should be creative - and that people who didn't want to write, paint, make things or generally be inventive about their daily lives were the 'abnormal' ones!

To me, the suggestion that there's something abnormal about creativity is rather insulting - and a bit strange. 

I mean, why, in a wise and civilized society, would being creative be regarded as some kind of mental aberration?

Now, I'm well aware that writers are often sensitive to life and 'feel' things that inspire them to write them down. Many writers are very observant when it comes to detail and trying to make sense of life and people.

But is being extra receptive to normal things really a sign of madness?

The article suggests it should be. In fact they go so far as you imply that, scientifically speaking, when you come across people who suffer from mental illness, perhaps your first suggestion to them is, "Oh, have you thought about becoming an artist?"

See what I mean about being insulting?

The implication that all artists must be mad?

What is mad about about wanting to change the world for the better? What is insane about wanting to write books and make movies that inspire the world?

It reminds me of that old statistic about crime. They say 60% of murders are alcohol related - so therefore drinking alcohol is a bad thing. That's how you're supposed to read the statistic.

But what occurs to me is that, hidden in plain sight, we learn that 40% of murders are committed by completely sober, so called rational people! That's a far more scary way of looking at this statistic!

And so it is with the Swedish research.

What's their definition of normal? It appears to be: people who aren't creative!

I've met some pretty crazy people in my time. I've met people who think reading is overrated. I've met people who think that working their whole lives just to pay off a mortgage is sensible. I've met people who think that everything in the Bible is fact - and written by God. I've met people who think that politicians deserve to be respected and that corporate entities have ethics and behave with any kind of inherent social responsibility...

If you ask me, these are the crazy people!

What's insane about thinking our society needs to be improved and that creativity is an integral part of being human?

Maybe I'm ranting now.

Maybe I'm one of the crazy ones!

It's often said that you can tell that a person has gone completely mad because they can't see their own insanity.

Well, I guess that's me then.

Because if I live in a world where creativity is to be equated with mental imbalance, then put me in a straight-jacket now!

I'm clearly gaga.

Seriously, there does seem to be this worrying idea that if you're somehow sensitive and feel in any way uncomfortable within the strict confines of day to day existence that you're a bit of loony.

And that if you're capable of intense focus on something - whether that's writing a novel or perhaps an obsession with some other kind of self expression, then perhaps there's something wrong with you.

It's an interesting idea because if the 'non-creatives' have their way - and try to marginalize and minimize the importance of creativity and inspiration - what kind of world would we live in then?

A place where there's no innovation? 

Where new ideas are shunned? 

A world where nobody questions the status quo? 

Where injustice and abuse of power is tolerated?

A society where anyone who stands up and says 'this is wrong' is seen as a freak? 

To be honest, I can see this happening - in the media especially - but there again, you can't listen to me because I'm one of those freaks...

The world would be a pretty boring - and pretty scary - place if it were run by engineers and scientists and the chattering classes.

Rationality is overrated IMHO.

I prefer to live in a world where there's a sense of wonder - and that there are still things for creative people to worry about - and try to change.

Because anyone can complain and feel powerless.

But artists need to be unrealistic - it's part of the job description.

If everyone rational thought that change and growth was impossible, there'd surely be no hope for any of us.

And so, my writer friends, please:
Keep writing!
 rob at home
"Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his  own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
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