Monday, March 24, 2014

On being a writer

I couldn't sleep last night. Not one of my usual insomnia nights when I wake up after a few hours and then am unable to go back to sleep until 30 minutes before my alarm goes, but one of those when you're just about to fall sleep and then all of a sudden you're wide awake and that's it. Could be because I felt really stressed as I had a shit weekend from a writing pov (pardon the pun) - I spent maybe one hour tinkering with a chapter - not accaptable. I need this novel to get to the end so I can move on and start the next.

So, anyway, as I'm lying there I started to think about a blog post I read the other day about writers and mental illness. This is of course nothing new, that writers are often thought to suffer from depression. Like PC so quickly pointed out when I sent him the link "As we all knew..." (He then went on to tell me I'm a "genius - obviously" when I told him the title of my next novel; he's a very clever man.) The post talks about how writers think too much and how we turn our reality into plot and the people in our lives into characters. And to be honest, haven't I spent my entire life doing this? Maybe this is why I'm so fickle - nothing (no one) ever comes close.

This made me think about Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time, which is a novel about a novelist. There are a lot of things in the novel that I can relate to, like when the novelist talks about his characters and how they have to take on a life of their own, surprise you, but like people in real life can turn out to not be what you thought they were and you can't stand them. (I've had that problem with M all through this novel - she's just not doing for me so, fickle as I am, I just can't be bothered.) I've read half of it so far and think it's an interesting novel is for a writer (though I'm finding it hard to get through actually - I've even had to put it aside half way and read another book for a while; I didn't find this with The Finkler Question but that could be because I read it during a period when I was preoccupied with Beshert and stuff...). 

One of my favorite bits in Zoo Time is this:

The impulse to write is an impulse to alter the conditions of your childhood. Not to falsify them, but to make the world other than the hellhole it looks to you when you're young.

For me this really sums things up. I'm not saying I had an unhappy childhood. But looking back, it's was one massive hellhole. I don't even have to look back - I was emerged in a hellhole daily. I wasn't depressed - it was just... Not interesting enough. 

Of course I don't think all writers are depressed (drunks) - some writers are successful without having the neurological similarities of someone who suffers from psychosis (but here I'd like to say then we need to look at what they write about). Likewise, not everyone who thinks too much and suffer from depression has an urge to write. But as I was lying there, sleepless, I wondered for those this applies to:

Do we write because we are depressed or are we depressed because we write?

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